Right where I am sitting with my latte
On a stool by the window
Looking out at the harbor
There is an antique cash register
On a shelf above me
Ornately conceived of brass and iron
And wood and glass
With keys like a giant typewriter
Built tough as nails
By the National Cash Register Company.

It was made to count and protect the cash
Of burgeoning businesses
Across the new country
And evokes my grandmother’s day
Back when the doors of shops had bells
And customers paid cash
Or ran a tab,
Back when the world
Was about the be covered
By Sherwin Williams’s paint.

I know that curiosity killed the cat
But I can’t help myself
And the drawer is slightly open
So I pull it all the way open
Expecting it to be empty but it isn’t.

Inside one of the square sections
Of orange-varnished wood
Where the coins used to go
(Lincoln-head and Indian-head copper pennies
Silver Mercury-head dimes and
Silver quarters and half dollars with the goddess
Of liberty in stride)

There is a yellowed, stained card:
With the lettering:

I Donate 10c / To RICHELIEU CLUB /
Benefit of / Underprivileged Children ………

And, being a compulsory muser, I muse:
The transistor radio will go nicely with
My dream of purchasing my own car
Which I will park In the attached garage
In my all-White ticky-tack neighborhood
Where my new young wife is seated
At the Formica kitchen table
Having just seen me off to work.
She is wearing her floral apron
And her orange and blue kerchief
Ready to start having three kids
And our dog Rex is anxious to learn a cute trick
And to romp in the back yard
For the family photo album.

And the chemical factories
Are manufacturing a litany
Of lethal chemicals
To dump into the rivers of America
And Rachel Carson just published The Edge of the Sea
And the animals of the earth
Are getting ready to go extinct
Like flashbulbs.


The old cash register is responsible for launching this poem. The card, which was a voucher for the 10 cent donation to raise money for underprivileged children, sponsored by the RICHELIEU CLUB, was really in the register drawer. In writing the poem I had to look up some dates to make sure that my time-line was accurate. Transistor radios were invented in 1947 and were commercially available starting right around 1950, so the early fifties. (The first ones were black.). Rachel Carson published her book, Edge of the Sea around that time (1954). (She didn’t publish Silent Spring until 1962.) Instamatic cameras didn’t appear until 1962 but the Kodak Flash Brownie Box Camera with the single use flashbulb came out in 1940. The Sherwin Williams logo and slogan has been around since 1893. Formica is a laminated composite material (plastic) invented at the Westinghouse Electric Corporation in the United States in 1912. It enjoyed a comeback in the 1940s, 50s when bright colors were coming into suburban fashion.