Supermarket Diaries reveals the life of Nina Belén Robins, a supermarket cashier. As she scans, bags, and is frequented by many complicated, different personalities, Nina finds herself disassociating and losing her compassion for the needy customers that stand before her. In hopes of regaining pieces of compassion back, Nina details her experiences with the sometimes sweet and often frustrating customers. Nina’s crafty poems reveal parts of customers existence, retail works often neglect in noticing.
We’ve all been there. Working endless hours at consuming jobs were the illusion of “happiness” never ends. The place where you’ve first begun to dissociate parts of yourself; your smile, your laugh and maybe even your voice. It’s frequently offered up to the judge-y consumers and co-workers you’re forced to pretend too. So much and so often that it no longer feels like you. You no longer feel like you. If you ever felt like that or if you’ve ever worked a retail job, Supermarket Diaries by Nina Belén Robins is for you.
Nina writes of her experiences with the daunting, pull of retail life. In various creative, beautify written poems, Nina tells it all. She details her interactions with customers in retail, as well as, what she’s witnessed within frequent customers, “Bottle slips printed in turn for hundreds of empty beverages./ Often I have to return papers to crestfallen/ Fingers because the twelve-dollar limit has been reached” (Bottle slips). Nina has a way with words. She’s enabled me to see everyday strangers as strangers with beautiful stories I know want to capture. I look at people I normally wouldn’t pay any attention to, a teacher, co-worker, or those unfamiliar to me, and now wonder what their stories are.
“It’s so easy to yell at someone who is not allowed to respond.” – Open Letter to the pope.– Nina Belén Robins
I’ve noticed Nina’s interactions with customers, although insightful and beautifully written, is something most wouldn’t notice. Being a former cashier myself, I noticed co-workers usually look through people not in them and customers happily returning the favor. When you work in retail, sometimes the only way to get through the day is if everyone mergers together. Speaking from personal experiences, I’ve only noticed the ones I tolerated and the ones I loathed. Unlike me, Nina noticed everyone. More importantly she’s able to acknowledge their stories with in such a small fraction of time, through little to no verbal contact. She pulls stories from people they might’ve not realized they were hiding or they assumed were hiding well, “Always messages/ passed through her smile”(Louise), and adds a creative somber taste to their experiences from her outsider perspective.
“I will watch customers in silence and not warn them./ People refuse to admit that they are being fooled./ But I am on to you.” – Open Letter To Nabisco– Nina Belén Robins
One of the wonderful talents many poets possess is their ability to grasp (their own) or another persons struggles and turn in into art. Nina grasps (maybe) simple or meaningless interactions at the supermarket and transforms them into mind-blowing pieces of art, “Now he can only love the snooze button,/ no attraction to the sunrise” (Louise).
What I loved the most about Nina Robins writing is her ability to capture emotions. It’s something I’ve learned to value as a reader and a writer. Those small seemingly, insignificant lines that you can’t tear your eyes from. Nina’s book is full of them. Small words making up bigger meanings, “Theresa’s clean hands tremble/ when I force the change into her fingers./ She’s contaminated/ Violated./ Infected and repulsed” (Theresa). Her honesty forces me to remember some of the times I’ve felt the way she has, or pushed me to feel that way even if it’s foreign. As most of the people that read my blog post know, emotional pull is important to me. It helps me connect with authors, which indulges me to better understating and appreciating the book. Nina’s book is definitely one that has connected and will resonate in me.
“The lady thanked God for the reduced rack… I did not tell her about the people so broke/ we call the cops because they try to sneak bread home,/ about the homeless people/ who dig through garbage to make $1.00 on soda cans,/ about the bums who live on bakeshop samples-/ or the single mothers making 8.50 an hour/ with their union 16 hours a week.” – God– Nina Belén Robins
I’m very excited to read and review more of Nina’s work. Supermarket Dairies is raw, well written, and beautiful. It’s a book I can see myself reading over and over again and never feeling disappointed.
Josie M. Hulen
Josie Monet Hulen is a writer with a Bachelors degree in literature. She’s passionate about the written word and often spends her time with her nose in a book or in the middle of writing one. Her hunger for knowledge and determination to learn, landed her a job as an office manager. She has also been an intern for 9 months with an online publishing company and works part time as a freelance writer. Josie one day hopes to be an inspiring writer.