9 to 5 Poetry Project, Poem 7: Nostalgia At Register 5

Today, for once, was a nice, restful day. So restful, in fact, that it barely felt like work at all. Consequently, it was easier to mull over what to write about today. Without any preamble, I bring you Poem 7!

Nostalgia at Register 5

Three new hires huddle around one register,
Their frightened, attentive faces fixed alternately
On the screen and our coordinator’s face.
Something in those wide eyes, trying to consume
Infinite minute details, crammed into three hours.

Watching them, I feel ancient—for me, it’s all habit.
I can roll a greeting off the tongue, take a return
Without blinking, and spot a false one with ease.
But once, I was in their place.
I stood behind registers that have been replaced,
In a TJ Maxx thirty minutes down the road.
Terrified that anyone would let me handle $100 bills,
Give change—though the register does the math,
I was convinced I’d screw it up.

And so are they. I can see it in their 16-year old faces.
All three remind me of a 17-year-old me,
But perhaps less timid, less likely to burst
Into tears during their first full shift.
Going on five years later, I’m told to “keep an eye”
On a first transaction. Though he towers above me,
His mistakes are, momentarily, in my hands.
And I wonder what I would have felt at 17,
If someone told me I’d still be standing here
Four and a half years later, passing the baton.

Note: This poem was sparked by the strange feeling I always get watching somebody else get register trained. It’s only when I think about the numbers that I realize how long ago that happened for me, and I always get nostalgic about all of my firsts. And this poem is basically just about that. For clarity, I got register trained at a different location than I work at currently, and the registers have since been replaced.


9 to 5 Poetry Project, Poem 6: Hands

Okay, internet people, I admit it–I cheated a little bit on the poetry project. Yesterday was Sunday, but I was on the schedule for work. However, what with it being the holiday weekend, I was a little bitter about the situation, and decided to give myself the night off from poetry.

However, now that it’s Monday, I’m back with poem number 6 and a quasi-solemn promise never to cheat again. Probably.

This one is one of my favorites so far, but it has an admittedly terrible working title (because titles are hard), so bear with me here.


The weight of unbought clothes presses
Metallic teeth into the tender tops of my hands,
Leaving twin marks that resemble a vampire bite.
But these marks will grant no immortality.
They endow instead a sense of monotony.
I’ve been here before; hangers cutting into raw flesh—
Marked, semi-permanent, by a temporary occupation.

It’s said to know a thing well is to know it like the back
Of your hand. There I see the long thin scar,
Still pink, raised, robbing the skin of perfection
Long before it seemed to matter.
Before worries over scars and wrinkles set in
Over the dreams of a sixteen-year-old girl baking cookies
In an oven mit that was just a little bit too short.

She doesn’t yet know that to simply be careful isn’t enough.
That caution, like anti wrinkle creams, must be applied liberally.
Like the dabs of moisturizer and sunscreen,
Like baths in coconut oil, said to fade stretch marks,
Trepidation feels a futile defense against the pressing
Continuance of time.

Note: This poem is, obviously, about my hands. I use them a lot at work, obviously, and some days I’m impressed by the amount of abuse they take.Anyway, my left hand has a pretty prominent scar on it from—as the poem mentions–a chocolate chip cookie incident, and it’s also the one I use to hold entirely too many pieces of clothes at once. This results in these red marks from hangers biting into my skin, and I decided to write about that. The rest, about skin and how we’re obsessed with making it as close to perfect as possible, just sort of followed from there.