A Bookstore in California

Written following reading Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself during a flight to Los Angeles and Allen Ginsberg’s A Supermarket in California while eating dinner at Venice Cucina, after purchasing an anthology of poetry from Small World Books in Venice Beach.

What thoughts I have of you tonight, Walt Whitman. Your radical inclusions made me smile, comfortably perched in first-class, somewhere between Baltimore and Los Angeles. Took a taxi to Venice Beach when Uber downloaded slowly, glad I booked early online as they turned away four people while just getting my key.

In my need to look forward to something – anything – positive or just different, I offered to drive ‘cross this country with a friend moving from California to DC. Couldn’t bear the guilt of getting so close to these waters without giving homage.

Went shopping for meanings on the boardwalk – What senses surround you! Neon lights looked ancient compared to the vibrant glows off the waves! Dank leaves of grass still cling to my clothes! White retirees huddle in boutiques to dodge the requests for spare change! Took interest in a bazaar full of plastic to dodge opened hands!

I saw you, Allen Ginsberg, in the corner of a bookstore in the back of an anthology slid off a shelf and onto the floor. Felt a sadness that transcended the sixty-three years since your dream. The muscles you triggered in my face poked the smile soreness stretched by Whitmanian listings beyond the clouds. Bumped into an Englishman that looked like a lumberjack battling cancer taking pictures of books – tasting, and capturing, but never passing the cashier.

Where are we going, Walt Whitman? Where should we be going, Allen Ginsberg? Only have these keys until morning. When the sun rises, a quick swim from my window with surfers before reenacting my greatest regret – turning my back on these waters. Will we drive listening to an America lost in her own contradictions? Will we follow the road signs, entrusting the words that she says? Or when you finally met, and looked down through the clouds, did you see distinct patches of grass – different and unequal – naively manicured by a momentary hope?

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