griffin and i are standing outside my grad housing apartment. right outside my door. isla vista. santa babylonia. it's a cool night. there's a plane flying low on its way to the airport and the stars are bright. i can smell the sea and the oil from the rigs. it's time to cruise the streets in the viper and check out the safeway. we bob along the path to the car. where is the car. ah. there it is. the doors creak open and it smells of smoke. it's pretty late. we wind along undulating streets dark and quiet. when we pull into the safeway parking lot it is almost empty. there's maybe four or five cars. are these the workers' cars? wouldn't there be more worker cars? what time is it really? 11 pm? 2 am? supermarkets in california are open twenty four hours. that's a lot of hours to choose from. who knows what time it is. it looks so bright inside. like disneyland. black and white trees and cars and parking lot. technicolor grocery store. red and green liquid stripes on white walls and multi-colored shelves and little cashier people standing at the checkout and little stocker workers between the aisles. wow. it's the wizard of oz. we're entering the emerald city. the doors swing open and my eyes squint from the glare. the aisles are filled with color. layers and layers of fruit and vegetables. green peppers. red apples. yellow bananas. and packages of cookies and crackers and row after row of bread. white bread. whole wheat bread. italian bread. challah bread. black bread. rye bread. oatmeal bread. and now i'm in the baking aisle staring at the lettering on the boxes. chocolate brownie mix. carrot cake. corn muffins. blue boxes and red boxes and chocolate chips. baking chocolate and color sprinkles. brown sprinkles. red sprinkles. green sprinkles. where's griffin? i wander up and down aisles of food. i can't believe there is so much food. so many packages. paper towels. toilet tissue. cat food. dog food. there he is with the potato chips. and i need a cherry coke and a pack of marlborough. and then it's time for a reality check with the cashier. i tap tap tap the pack of cigarettes on the back of my hand and the doors whoosh open for me. we climb back into the viper and i put my feet up on the dash. i light our cigarettes with a black bic lighter. i slurp my cherry coke and drag the smoke from my cigarette. we drive back to my apartment and slink to my room. past my roommate's closed door. we settle amidst our paraphernalia on the brown rug. we have our journals and newspapers and records and books. there's coney island baby, todd rundgren, neil young, eric burden, rickie lee and bukowski and plath and ginsberg. griffin opens his book, inhales deeply from his cigarette, and reads to me:

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whit-
man, for I walked down the sidestreets under the trees
with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon.
In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images,
I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of
your enumerations!
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole fam-
ilies shopping at night! Aisles full of husbands! Wives
in the avocados, babies in the tomatoes!--and you,
Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the

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
the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my
I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of
cans following you, and followed in my imagination
by the store detective.
We strode down the open corridors together in
our solitary fancy tasting artichokes, possessing every
frozen delicacy, and never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? The doors
close in an hour. Which way does your beard point
(I touch your book and dream of our odyssey in the
supermarket and feel absurd.)
Will we walk all night through solitary streets?
The trees add shade to shade, lights out in the houses,
we'll both be lonely.
Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of love
past blue automobiles in driveways, home to our silent
Ah, dear father, graybeard, lonely old courage-
teacher, what America did you have when Charon quit
poling his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank
and stood watching the boat disappear on the black
waters of Lethe?

Allen Ginsberg, Berkeley, 1955
A Supermarket in California

bulldog breath ginsberg tribute

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