Lines for the Girl in the Blue Jacket

Just one among ten or so
in a starched blue jacket, my back turned
on the plate glass windows plastered with ads,
the July sun thrown away on the supermarket parking lot,
I'm seventeen and drawing vegetables off the conveyer belt,
right hand fingers striking the keys, the heel of my palm
hitting Add. Ca-chung! shoving them behind to join
the Cheerios and Spam. Ca-chung!

I've no time to envy tanned boys and girls
jostling at the express check-out with their chips,
their six packs.  How am I to know Saturday means
filling the cooler with beer and sandwiches, motoring
to the boat on the club launch, raising the sails?

Some Saturday afternoons, my fingers smudged
by all the bills shuffled and turned, I gaze
after Paul, the head cashier, longing for him
to press in behind me to take the bundles of fives,
tens, twenties.  When our hands touch, I'm thrilled,
drudgery transformed by desire.

Oh Stop & Shop, I have not forgotten you.
You are cheeky bag boys, milk spilled
on the conveyer belt, clunky steel carriages
and the friend I raced to see how much cash
we could take in.  Smithy of my soul, you are the one
who says So what! if I never learned
to place knife and fork side by side
so the maid could clear.  You are the girl
in the blue jacket, fastest on the keys,
champion cashier.

—Claire Keyes, Marblehead, MA