Friday, November 7, 2008

Poetry Friday

A funny story: Once my 11th grade english teacher had this poetry book that he was reading from. I don't remember the specifics, but he must have been asking the class about what poets they liked, and then reading from the book. I said I liked Allen Ginsberg. The poor teacher, I don't know if he had any idea. He starts reading this poem out loud to the class, and it becomes obvious very quickly that it was not an appropriate poem to read aloud to a group of 16 year olds. The teacher was embarrassed, but we all thought it was hillarious.

I tried to figure out what poem that was. My first inclination is that it was "Sunflower Sutra," but that doesn't really have anything naughty in it. But then again, what seems scandalous when you're 16 usually is a lot less so more than a decade later. So, instead of posting what I had originally intended, which was that poem - whatever one it might be - I will share my favorite Ginsberg poem.

A Supermarket in California

     What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, forI walked down the sidestreets under the trees with a headacheself-conscious looking at the full moon.
    In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I wentinto the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations!
    What peaches and what penumbras! Whole familiesshopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives in theavocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you, Garcia Lorca, whatwere you doing down by the watermelons?

    I saw you, Walt Whitman, childless, lonely old grubber,poking among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys.
    I heard you asking questions of each: Who killed thepork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
    I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cansfollowing you, and followed in my imagination by the store detective.
    We strode down the open corridors together in oursolitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every frozendelicacy, and never passing the cashier.

    Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors close inan hour. Which way does your beard point tonight?
    (I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in thesupermarket and feel absurd.)
    Will we walk all night through solitary streets? Thetrees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses, we'll both be lonely.

   Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of lovepast blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent cottage?
   Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-teacher,what America did you have when Charon quit poling his ferry andyou got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boatdisappear on the black waters of Lethe?

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