Sunday, 31 May 2015


An old UHER tape recorder with grille front,
gear-stick controls, red stripe on the monitor
warning of distortion and unusable testimony:
we trained on these, lugged them out to gauge
public opinion about the morning headlines,
asked interviewees to switch off fridges
while we tested levels with a question
about what they had for breakfast.
Banks of them charged in a cabinet
and you’d know which one was reliable,
which one might snarl no matter how
carefully you threaded the sprockets.
Dun tape fed through at seven and a half inches
per second: fifteen minutes to the spool.
In that time you had to get the story.
And now, behind glass, it squats there –
analogue dinosaur beyond its sell-by date.
This one was found in the House of Leaves,
chosen by the regime in Tirana to record
interrogations. Every week or so,
someone must have done what I did
and wiped accumulations of dirt
from the playback and recording heads.

Tom Phillips

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