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A Poet in a Supermarket

September 23, 2010
Hank Williams, Jr. Letter

Hank Williams, Jr. letter to R. L. Wagner (courtesy of I want one of these typewriters.

If I Google Poet + Supermarket in my mind,  I have a clear number 1 result: Allen Ginsburg’s A Supermarket in California. Until today.

Today I met R. L. Wagner III in Williams Supermarket on St. Charles Avenue as I waited for a lovely lady to make my $2.99 tuna on toast, fully dressed. Mr. Wagner, wearing a short sleeved mock turtleneck with freshly slicked down post-shower hair, engaged me. Within 30 seconds he told me that he was a poet, and that I had read his poetry before.

R. L. (Rick) Wagner

R. L. (Rick) Wagner (photo courtesy

I hadn’t.

From an empty duffel bag, he got out a folded piece of paper with his website written on it. He unfolded it, and pointed at it. He read it to me. R. L. Wagner dot com. He told me to look at his website when I got home.

I did.

So many reasons I love New Orleans– characters like Mr. Wagner self-promoting from an empty duffel bag while waiting to be served fried chicken, offering tips to make beef stew a little different each week.

Enjoy this little diddy by Allen Ginsberg for your afternoon delight. I’m still basking in the glory that is R. L. Wagner III.

A Supermarket in California

What thoughts I have of you tonight Walt Whitman, 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 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?

2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 23, 2010 2:13 pm

    Why don’t I meet eccentric cyber poets in supermarkets? Clearly because I don’t live in New Orleans….what a lovely eclectic hotch potch of impressions and memories and things that never were, but R.L. would like them to be.

    Thank you for a perfectly charming post, all the way from that wonderful city.

  2. September 23, 2010 6:46 pm

    okay wait, did i really just read a poem about condoms!? and that disclaimer!? oh my! he’s a busy man- be honored he took the time to share his work with you 🙂

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