Study Guide

A Supermarket in California Visions of America

By Allen Ginsberg

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Visions of America

In my hungry fatigue, and shopping for images, I went into the neon fruit supermarket, dreaming of your enumerations! (1)

The speaker goes into the supermarket not to shop for food, but to shop for "images." He's been so brainwashed by the media that he doesn't think about actual food; he thinks about the images of that food that he's seen in magazines and on TV.

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? (3)

The speaker sees typical American families, made up of husbands, wives, and babies, and feels like an outsider among them.

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? (10-11)

The speaker imagines that he and Walt are both lonely, strolling together as outsiders down suburban streets. He feels so different than the Americans with their little families and blue automobiles, and wonders whether there was once a "lost America of love" that was different from the 1950s America that he lives in—an America that was not all about shopping.

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? (12)

While the speaker seems to hope that there was such a thing as a "lost America of love" in the previous line, here, he casts a lot of doubt on that very notion. He asks the imaginary Walt about his America, and doesn't seem all that hopeful about it. He seems to recognize that there never was a real America of love, which means that he and Walt will always be and would have always been outsiders in American culture.

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