"Grocery Shopping With Infinite Jest" by Jonathan Hoffman

"Grocery Shopping With Infinite Jest" by Jonathan Hoffman

Grocery Shopping With Infinite Jest


I'm grocery shopping and I think of David Foster Wallace.
I cringe, why was he so right,
Why'd he have to kill himself?
His speech about the fish in This Is Water
Struck a chord, but then he killed himself, so
I don't know if he killed himself because
He couldn't stop thinking
And wouldn't just be bored,
Or if he was just depressed and sick?
He was on meds for most of his adult life,
But was that because he couldn't suck it up,
Wanted everything to be perfect, but
Since he's not capable of perfection
Took himself out of the equation?
Or did he just have clinical depression?

I'm mostly happy but sometimes I'm not
And sometimes I am stuck behind a cart
That's stuck behind a cart, and sometimes
I'm stuck in these kinds of thoughts
Out of fear that I may succumb
To some greater truth that maybe he found out.
Why did he have to be the recent great of my
Time, why couldn't Pynchon or Faulkner be closer?
I can't stop staring at David Foster Wallace.

I can't be a writer full time, don't want to be.
I need to stop thinking this way, so inside myself.
Music and physics and people help
Me keep from isolating myself
That's why I'm an engineer,
Why I'm in school to become one, I mean.
But I still can't stop my mind from running
Sometimes to the dark truths that I
Often think are deep truths. Maybe,
The Truth is that these truths are made
In social contexts and philosophy,
And are just made. And are still true,
But are no truer than other truths.

I'm grabbing for some mac and cheese
That's going to be so good for dinner;
I keep walking and keep thinking
About the juxtaposition of
His words and his life. My question is:
Could he not live them,
Or can no one live them?
To always focus is impossible,
But should I try to as much as I can?
Hard-work ideals eat away at my sanity,
I feel them taking, but should I
Maximize my contribution to the world
At cost of my own health? He says
I get to choose, but what to choose
And how to choose it? Circumstance:
Should I get bacon?  High cholesterol
Is in my family, but it's so tasty
And I'm going vegetarian once I get back to school
So I should eat it while I can.
Is it worth the calories and CO2? Maybe not
But I can only think so much
About this before I get stuck
In worn out thoughts, I’ll come back
Later and use instinct.

I wonder what he was thinking with the gun in his mouth
Or the rope around his neck, he who spoke so clearly
And with so much self-doubt,
The voice of postmodernism did what irony does
And reduced himself to naught.
But he knew what irony does
So where does that leave us?
Where does that leave me?

Magritte didn't kill himself, was he
Happy like I am? I truly am
Happy, except when I get bored
I get dramatic, think about The Null.
And I am overwhelmingly bored here.

I should get some yogurt, Fagé brand
I grab it and it feels cool in my hand.
I see and think about all these people
And how they are all doing the same shit
That I am and that Chicago is so busy.
I shouldn't have gone shopping at 5 o'clock,
I should've known better. It's not like
I do anything with my days except write
Poetry and my book and think and watch Netflix and wait
For school to start and for my life to begin again.

I want a happy and productive life
But foremost I just want to be happy
Then to help others as much as I can.
I can be happy, just not living this
Stolid summer break in a new town
Writing all the time to put off pain
Unable to improve it, just to wait
And murder time until school starts again.  

Where work is hard but nondestructive,
Creative but without destroying me
To fit me on a page.  Where I have friends.
Writing keeps me on my toes, but
Engineering keeps me in the world.
It calls to me, this type of love
Will breed contentment, not just passion,
So I will seek it out.
We writers always find what isn’t right,
We engineers will fix what doesn’t work,
I will find and make a happy life. I think

That irony has no substance
And relies upon that which it ridicules.
Without a culture there is no counter,
But the counter is often made to be
Absorbed into the culture. Making change
Is largely living as you hope
That others will and telling them
How you live it. Just make
The moral food you’d want to buy
And others like you will
Soon buy from you.  Hopefully

We will learn to treat all people as their own,
As vivid things of wants, desires: whole.
I should get cheese. American?
I wonder if American cheese
Is American cheese in Switzerland
Or Cameroon or Swaziland.
I wonder if people in Britain
Bemoan their government as much as Americans:
Young people, hipsters, postmodernists
Believing in Nothing but not knowing
That they really believe in something. Otherwise
They would go the route that he did. Camus said
“The only serious philosophical problem
Is suicide, the rest is commentary”:
Walking down an aisle I see me
In others walking, slowly I am
Freed from my internal by my sight
And others living more than lonely,
Then, I see I can always look like this.
The joy from all these little narratives
Surpasses words, is what poetics was
Invented for. And David Foster Wallace
Nudged me here.  It will get better.

When grabbing gouda thoughts assail me: life
Is better when assumed,
Thereby allowed;
And life just is, it is not just,
But it is part what we can choose;
And death is only naught from here
Because as life we are so much;
And we are only life and death,
But we get to be life!

A year formed into minutes, I
Grew slowly from the rage at him
To seeing that he lived his life
As best he could.  In grocery stores
I constantly considered him,
His graceful trick of telling these
Hopeful origin stories as
A way to help you through the day.
I could not fathom that the man
Who thought of this would have denied
Himself the pleasure, but he has.
There is no knowing what he thought,
There’s only seeing what he did
And he did kill himself, but I
Am not him. I’ll choose for myself.

The world is as it is and we
Are just some lives, these little words
Can’t show you what a food is, but
Can show its color, shape or size.  
And we can choose each for ourselves
What we will eat, so I will find
My favorites and eat them more.  
That may be all there is to do,
In any case, I’m fine with it.

I’ll treat myself
And buy the bacon, I
Could use the lift,
I've made my choice.
Life is better with a little savor
But life is sweet so I will let it be

The checkout line is long, and I pull out my phone and write,
And quantify and say goodbye to what was once my life.



Jonathan Hoffman is a writer from Evanston, IL. He was recently nominated for a Pacemaker Award.

You can read more of his work by visiting his website Jonathan Hoffman.


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