America two dollars and twenty-seven cents January 17, 1956. (2)
Early on in the poem, the speaker lets us know in which class he sits—namely, the lower one. While it's not entirely clear from this stream-of-consciousness line, we think it's a safe bet to read that $2.27 as the last remaining cash that the speaker has on him. He finds himself at the bottom of the American barrel, and he doesn't like what he sees when he looks up.
When can I go into the supermarket and buy what I need with my good looks? (15)
At first, this seems like another of the speaker's snide, funny remarks that he peppers the poem with. If you think about it, though, there's a disturbing kernel of truth to this question. While good looks may not guarantee you a six-figure salary (Take it from us! Ahem… ), isn't it much easier to get along in America if you're a good looking person who fits into the standard idea of beauty? You might get the door held open for you. You might get that job you're interviewing for. You probably won't get free food at the supermarket, though, Shmoopers, so don't try it.
You should have seen me reading Marx. (33)
With this line, the speaker proudly declares the influence that Karl Marx, co-author of The Communist Manifesto, has on him. Marx was all about class struggle, theorizing that the working class (the "proletariat") was locked in a struggle with a small group of people who controlled the economy (the "bourgeoisie"). What do you think Marx would have said about the modern American economic system?