Current Occupation: Professor of English, Corban University, Salem, OR
Former Occupation: I worked in retail and as a waitress for years. Some of this poem is based on that.
Your Short Biographical Statement: Colette Tennant is an English professor where she teaches creative writing and literature at a small university in Salem, Oregon. She has two books of poetry, Commotion of Wings and Eden and After. She is currently compiling her third poetry book. She likes to travel and play Scrabble when she isn’t grading papers.
In the Museum of Part-Time Jobs
Everyone has a name tag
that jabs in just above their heart.
Some wear gaudy green aprons,
heavy as military canvas.
Some herd grocery carts like dirty sheep,
shepherd them into single file.
Some lift handfuls of wet salad,
shove them into plastic bowls.
Some make change at a drive-through window,
the intercom scratchy as an infected throat.
Some serve ice cream to old men at the counter
then watch as they chew it every time.
Some fill sugar bowls and salt shakers
with a million grains of whitest white.
Every night, they polish coffee makers
till they shine to sleep.
Some fold the t-shirts small to extra-large,
collars round as yawns.
Some clean the fitting rooms,
empty dresses tried and rejected.
Most here smile on demand,
know the customers are always right –
the woman who insists she had asked for soy milk,
the man who wants “whooped cream.”
Time clocks emotionless as Kafka
ka-chunk greetings and farewells.
As they leave, lights dim,
doors lock tight behind them.
Everyone’s car appears to be the last one in the parking lot.
They listen hard to be sure their footsteps are the only ones they hear.