FIRST

 

Hardware Visitations (after Allen Ginsberg, A Supermarket in California)

Dominic Fisher (Bristol, UK)

 

dominic fisher

Helen Ivory: This poem is written after Ginsberg’s 1955 poem A Supermarket in California, which centres on an encounter with Whitman and Lorca in the supermarket aisles, in a time of flux. Hardware visitations imagines encountering Ginsberg himself, and also Wilfred Owen amid the brackets and fixings of a hardware store in the present day – also a time of questioning and flux. Hardware Visitations works so subtly that before I knew it, I was reading a state-of-the-nations poem, a political poem, a war poem – or moreover a peace poem. That’s the sleight-of-hand I mentioned earlier. The poem uses incongruity, humour and mild trippy-ness to make some very serious points, and seeing kinship in Ginsberg and Owen, wants to invite them to a picnic of wine and fishes: ‘You who fought having written that the sweetness of death by war was a lie / and you who blew dope smoke in the face of war, I wanted to introduce you.’ This poem, I put on my ‘read again’ pile four times, knowing I couldn’t consume it all at one sitting – which is ultimately I think, what I want from a poem.

 

        

Hardware Visitations

(after Allen Ginsberg, A Supermarket in California)

 

I found I was fragile under the apple blossom this crystal blue spring

so I took myself off down the hill to get brackets and fixings.

 

Ginsberg, I thought of you on the way, though couldn’t put my finger on why,

considered whether it was solitude or some sense my nation was losing its mind.

 

I confess I felt I needed some ticket or token, some pass to eternity

to open a gate or a sliding glass door of admission to Eden.

 

But you know how it is, though they promise a kingdom the prophets stay dead,

the lamb that is slaughtered gets eaten and the galaxies never reply,

 

and like anyone else with a diary that keeps filling with funerals

I had a shelf to put up on a wall and I needed some hardware.

 

As I arrived with my list the store was busy as usual, the entrance

was crowded with buckets and brushes like offerings to sensible gods.

 

And I saw you there, Alan Ginsberg, wistful among doorknobs and latch sets

feeling the smoothness of finger plates and eyeing a helpful assistant.

 

You were there too, Lieutenant Wilfred Owen, in your bloodied uniform

browsing the padlocks, the hooks and turn buttons in labelled trays.

 

I saw you step back politely as someone was shown where tool clips were.

Did these bits and pieces remind you of home, or your kit in the trenches?

 

You who fought having written that the sweetness of death by war was a lie

and you who blew dope smoke in the face of war, I wanted to introduce you.

 

In my mind I said, will we carry on down together and get some fish

take it back to my place to have with white wine under a flowering tree?

 

Where this all started in fact. Wilfred, will you recount how your housemaster

quoted Horace, then nodding knowingly, sauntered off to watch cricket?

 

Will you recount for us, Alan, your rhapsodic nights on benzadrine,

or explain in cogent detail why America must impeach her President?

 

I may not get to these verses before you board the ferry together

laughing and shouting that dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.

 

As you step unsteadily on the smoking shore, will you pay the oarsman

in mirror plates, picture hooks, buttons and other little bits of brass?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

poem © Dominic Fisher