Pandemic Poem: A Supermarket in California
after Allen Ginsberg's A Supermarket in California
What thoughts I have of you tonight, Allen Ginsberg, as I wait outside this Trader Joe’s, red lines painted across the parking lot at six-feet intervals directing me where to stand. In my anxious fatigue, and shopping for wishes, I head in through the sliding glass doors, dreaming of vaccination! What pestilence and what conundrums! Whole families shopping in fright! Aisles full of masked husbands. Wives squeezing the avocados, clueless babies in the tomatoes!—and you, Garcia Lorca, what were you doing down by the toilet paper?
I saw you, Allen Ginsberg, gloveless, lonely old scrubber, yearning to poke among the meats in the refrigerator and eyeing the grocery boys’ hygiene. I heard you asking questions of each: Who delivered the pork chops? What price bandannas? Are you my Angel of Death?
I wandered in and out of the barren shelves following you, and followed in my imagination by invisible microscopic droplets. We strode down the empty aisles together with our disinfected carts, in solitary distance, hoarding every frozen delicacy and trying not to pass each other.
Where are we going, Allen Ginsberg? The doors close an hour early. What does your temperature read tonight? (I touch my face and dream of contagion in the supermarket and feel afraid.) Will we walk all night through quarantined streets? The shuttered bars add shade to shade, lights on in the houses, we’re all so lonely. Will we stroll dreaming of the lost America of last week past useless blue automobiles in driveways, home to our self-isolating cage?
Ah, dear father, immunosuppressed, lonely old courage-teacher, what America will we have after millions of lost jobs, and we go out into a smoldering world and stand watching hope disappear like oxygen from the pneumonic lungs of God?
Clint Margrave is the author of the novel Lying Bastard (Run Amok Books 2020) and two poetry collections, Salute the Wreckage (NYQ Books 2016) and The Early Death of Men (NYQ Books 2012). His work has appeared in The Threepenny Review, The Writer’s Almanac, Rattle, Ambit (UK), and Verse Daily, among others. This poem was first published in Another Chicago Magazine. He lives in Los Angeles.