Progress in Telephony

For Mavra

I used to own
A telephone.
It had a dial rotary.
In those days all
It did was call
No other functionality.

When it would ring
Its ding-a ling
Someone with business or a friend,
A human, not
A mindless bot,
Was waiting at the other end.

Ma Bell, we knew,
Was tried and true.
We trusted in AT & T.
If we lost our
Electric power
The phone still worked reliably.

(Excepting when
You had a yen
To place a call to foreign parts
The tsuris you
Were subject to
Discouraged even stalwart hearts.)


To fully trace
What's taken place
In annals of telephony
With dates and facts
Would overtax
My sixty*-year-old memory.

The folks at Bell
Did not leave well-
Enough alone. The features came.
Though each alone
Improved the phone
The phone was never quite the same.

The cyclic dial
Was replaced
By buttons numbered Oh to nine.
Though some may smile
At my taste
I much preferred the old design.

When folks call you
And can't get through
They're sent to voice mail or are waited.
No calls get lost!
But there's a cost:
The phone was getting complicated.

The courts decided, must be fixed
The government
Had good intent
But the results were rather mixed.


Then came by far
The brightest star
The zenith of telephony
When Jobs displayed
What Apple made
That marvel of technology,

The iPhone! Sleek,
Upscale, and chic,
The greatest wonder of our age,
Compact and smart,
It's now a part
Of modern life at every stage.

Take photographs,
Play games for laughs,
A world of apps for cash or free
Your phone can get
The internet
In any place you chance to be.

No limit to
What you can do
It's just amazing, all in all,
But still somehow
It's harder now
Than ever to complete a call.

I've news to share:
"Is that you there?
There's something wrong. I cannot hear.
No use to shout.
My buds fell out
I'll hold the phone up to my ear.

Ah, now I've found
Them on the ground
I'll grab them with my other hand."
I touched the screen.
The damn machine
Went blank. I just don't understand.

So, frantically,
I tapped the screen, but that's no use
I had to wait
Until too late:
My mobile phone was out of juice.

Important calls were due to come.
They came, but my smart phone was dumb.
I found the answer Googling:
In focus mode, it dosn't ring.

A cultured man,
A music fan
His name will live in infamy
Because his phone
Blared forth its tone
And ruined Mahler's symphony.


And finally
Before I close
This threnody
Of first-world woes
Some slight attention should be paid
To how these mobile phones are made
In labor long, monotonous,
Ill-paid, unhealthy, dangerous.
We share in the collective guilt
For we enjoy what slaves have built

* I'm actually 66. Poetic licence.


This is part of the collection Verses for the Information Age by Ernest Davis