In the supermarket

220px-Agi_Mishol_by_Iris_NesherEven a poem for Black Friday… or part of a poem, by Agi Mishol, a Hungarian-born poet who lives in Israel and  writes in Hebrew. This is the first (and I think best) part of three part poem from the Ecco Anthology of International Poetry:

In the Supermarket

Through the supermarket aisles I push a cart
as if I were the mother of two heads of cauliflower,
and navigate according to the verse-list
I improvised this morning over coffee.
Sale banners wave to shoppers
studying the labels of packaged food
as Muzak entertains the frozen birds. And I too,
whose life is made of life, stride down the dog-food aisle
toward Mr. Flinker who confides in my ear that only the body
crumbles but the sipirt remains young forever, believe me.
I believe, but now let me turn to Granny Smith and McIntosh.
Hurry, hurry, folks, I’m the supermarket bard,
I’ll sing the rustle of cornflakes,
the curve of mutinous cucumbers,
until the cash register will hand me
the final printed version
of my poem.

Agi Mishol, translated by Tsipi Keller

This made me think of Allen Ginsburg’s supermarket poem, which is a bit longer:

A Supermarket in California

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman, for I
walked down the streets 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
What peaches and what penumbras! Whole families
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 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 the pork chops? What price bananas? Are you my Angel?
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 tonight?
(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 cottage?
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 Ginsburg



3 thoughts on “In the supermarket

  1. I liked both poems esp.: the muzak entrains the frozen birds.
    but I am drawn into the lonely sexiness of history via Mr. Ginsberg.
    I can’t choose.
    Okay, then, Allen Ginsburg.

    You seem to be engulfed and bedazzled by poetry, maybe it’s because You Are A Poet!!

  2. oops–should have been the Muzak entertains the frozen bits…a poet sometimes, but a terrible typist–will fix that. Well, yes, Ginsburg of course. Actually had a very hard time coming up with a Monday poem this week…

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