American Life in Poetry: Column 660

BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE

I love poems that delightfully offer voices for otherwise mute things, and I like what the following cash register has to say about her life and times. This poem is from Maria Nazos' chapbook, Still Life, from Dancing Girl Press & Studio. For the past two years, Maria has been our graduate assistant at American Life in Poetry, during which time she's had a good deal of success with her own poems, including a recent publication in The New Yorker.

Cash Register Sings The Blues

This isn't my dream-job. As a young sheet
of steel and plastic I dreamt of being melted
 
down into a dancer's pole in Vegas. I wanted
a woman in a headdress glossy as a gossamer
 
to wrap her lithe limbs around me. I wanted
to be strewn in lights, smell her powdery perfume.
 
Instead I'm a squat box crouched behind the counter,
noticed only if someone robs me. I'm touched all day,
 
but never caressed. Listen: somewhere gold tokens
spew from slots. I want to drink space-alien-dyed martinis on black
 
leather sectional couches. Watch tipsy women with acid-
washed jeans and teased hair dreamily press their faces
 
against slot machines while people treat currency
carelessly as spit in the wind.
 
I'm everywhere you look, ubiquitous and ignored.
I'm the container of your dreams that tossed aside my own.
 
I've kept my clean, sleek lines but you never say a thing.
Feed me, feed me with the only love we know.
 


We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2016 by Maria Nazos, “Cash Register Sings The Blues,” from Still Life, (Dancing Girl Press & Studio, 2016). Poem reprinted by permission of Maria Nazos and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2017 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.