Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

Lost Technologies

I remember 
the Telephone.
There was only one
in our house,
a shiny 
black plastic contraption
enthroned on a little table 
in the living room.

was at its beck and call
since it was attached
by a wire to the wall
and was therefore
the very opposite
of mobile.

Making a phone call
was a whole ritual.

First you lifted the receiver,
smooth and heavy in your hand,
from its cradle
on mother Telephone’s
little ears.

Holding the earpiece 
to your ear, 
the mouthpiece 
to your mouth,
you listened,
and the dial tone
come buzzing out
like an endless swarm 
of mechanical bees.

At that point
it was easy
to get entranced 
but eventually
you remembered
your friend’s number –
one of the many 
seven-digit numbers
etched in your memory –
and with your free hand
you began to dial:

The dial, a plastic disk
mounted on mother Telephone’s face,
had ten finger-sized holes
ringed like eyes around
a round white nose
where your own 
proud number 
was displayed: 

Each finger hole
had a different digit 
peering through it,
all in ascending order 
except for that weird zero
at the end –
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 –
and you dialed
your friend’s digits
by inserting the tip
of your index finger
into each proper hole,
one by one,
and pushing the hole around
listening to the clicks
until the disk 
came to a stop.

The whole process 
took some time,
since after dialing each digit 
and before dialing the next,
you had to remove your finger
to let the disk spin back
to its starting point 
where with a final 
it came to a stop:
8 – Push – whir – click
5 – Push – whir – click
1 – Push – whir – click
2 – Push – whir – click
2 – Push – whir – click
8 – Push – whir – click
3 – Push – whir – click

when you were done 
you waited
listening to the spooky silence
of the telephone lines
vibrating in the empty wind outside 
until at last 
came the ring:
rrrrring rrrrring
rrrrring rrrrring
rrrrring rrrrring

And you knew
that if anyone was home next door
someone was hurrying
to answer the phone…


It was the voice of Ruth, 
your friend’s mom, 
who looked like Betty Crocker –

“Hi, this is Trudi, 
can I talk to Diana?”

“Oh, of course dear, 
just a minute…”

More clicks
of a different sort
as she clicked away
on her high heels 
to find her daughter.

In a silence broken only 
by a single bark 
from their orange dog Tristram 
you waited
while Diana 
in her bedroom
looked up from her
Nancy Drew mystery
put it down
and came out 
to her own family’s
Telephone –
also black plastic
also enthroned
on a little table 
in the living room


do you want to play


So you told your mom
you were going out to play,
grabbed a spoon 
from the kitchen drawer,
dashed outside
slamming the screen door
behind you,
and ran barefoot 
through the weeds
down to the vacant lot
below your house.

There you and Diana
and crawled into the jungle
of poison oak 
to dig clay from the ground
with the spoon
and make little Indian pots

Those pots 
never held water
no matter how long you left them
to bake in the sun –
but that 
you knew 
would be the province
of another technology
yet to come.










Lost Technologies
Trudi Lee Richards

Trudi Lee Richards

Trudi Lee Richards, a poetic and musical member of the Universal Human Nation, is the author of On Wings of Intent, a biography of Silo; Soft Brushes with Death, a Jorge Espinet Primer; Confessions of Olivia, a fictional autobiography; and Fish Scribbles. She has also co-authored two books: Experiences on the Threshold and Ambrosia - Poetic Recipes/Recetas poeticas. Exactly two of her poems have been published by anyone other than her less-than-modest self: “The Great 21st Century Poemic" appeared in the April 2021 edition of Global Poemic (; and "Fairies of the Forest" appeared in the Palo Alto Times "Youth Said It" column in 1957. In the '90s she also wrote for, edited and published an independent San Francisco newspaper, Human Future; and in the '70s she co-founded the San Francisco arts publication La Mamelle, which morphed into Art Com before it died, and whose remnants are now housed in the Stanford Archives. A graduate of Stanford University, she helped raise several humans from infancy, and is now enjoying their friendship. Currently she tends to wander between Oregon and California, enjoying the company of her beloved community of friends and family. She can more or less reliably be found at the west coast Park of Study and Reflection, outside Red Bluff in Northern California, on the third Saturday of every month.