Resilience on Checkout 7

I am young and a bit shy,
which I agree is a shame.
I don't actually mind
the sound of my voice, I just
don't like people looking—at me,
at my uniform, which I
never wear right.
'Don’t smock me,' say the fillers.
This is their joke and
I've thought up another one
but haven't said it in case it
comes out dumb.
It's hard to know how to say a joke.
Your voice has to be right,
but you can't really think about it
when you're saying it
like you can't really think about
being on checkout when you're
on checkout. The boss tells us
that wages are the biggest impact
on his margins so we need to
smile more because we are
his loss leaders.
It's like Thursday night netball
when I throw a bad pass because
I was too slow or too quick and threw
to where I thought someone was or
was going to be, but they weren't,
and a groan goes up.
Like—I know. I get it.
It's a bad feeling,
but I take it on board
because it's good to realise
when you've made a mistake.
Everyone's a bit useless sometimes,
though some people don't seem to realise it
or they don't let it bother them if they do.
They just carry on. I would like to know
how to be more like them.
You can always do things better because
there are always better ways
to do things.

Photo by Russell Kleyn

James Brown lives and writes in Wellington. His Selected Poems was published by Te Herenga Waka University Press in 2020. ‘Resilience on Checkout 7’ comes from The Tip Shop, published in 2022 (THWUP).

James comments: 'The challenge in this poem was keeping the speaker engaging while staying within the confines of everyday language. I really like their character and where they get to in their musings.'


​Poem source details >


Te Herenga Waka University Press author page
New Zealand Book Council author profile
New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre author page
‘Hindenburg’: a transcribed poem