The Panda

by Pete Harlan


Once upon a midnight dreary, feeling kind of like Tim Leary,
Passing by a music store, I spied a note upon the door.
Squinting into inky blackness, trying to overcome my slackness,
Curious now to see what word or words were there, my vision blurred.
Six short steps and then I stood where--though the lighting wasn't good--
I read the scrawled handwritten note, a tight'ning growing in my throat,
"Come on in, and close the door, the panda's on the second floor..."
[*]

`Twas then I heard the pulsing sound, and felt the tremors in the ground
Of music from a distant land being played by some weird local band.
The eerie tune reminded me of something past that used to be,
And though at first I was resistant, as the beat grew more insistent,
Suddenly I stretched my arm, and, disregarding my alarm,
I pulled the door now fully open, wished that I had brought more dope, an'
Passing quickly through the door, I headed for the second floor.

As I neared the staircase landing, almost crawling, barely standing,
Reeling from the rude vibrations, filled with sickening sensations,
I now clearly felt the gong, and hammers beating each kenong,
While someone on a bonang banging joined with sarons brashly clanging.
('Neath it all a gender chimed, it's voice perchance a slenthem's rhymed.)
But when a piercing suling shrieked, 'twas then I guess I truly peaked,
And filled with dread down to my core, collapsed upon the second floor.

Dark visions of a dahlang dancing through my mind grew more entrancing
'Til I must've gone quite mad; but then I thought, "This ain't half bad!"
Now bonang imbal, gently rocking, shimmering and interlocking,
Caressed me cooly as I lay there list'ning to the gambang play.
P'rhaps I felt the slightest jitter, sensing someone's strumming siter,
But unprepared was I for when the scraggly one (they called him Qehn)
Grinned ev'ly at me 'cross his score: the Devil on the second floor.

Now in his hand a bow appeared, and then what I had ever feared
But somehow in my pain forgotten: two strings ne'er did sound so rotten!
"Oh", I cried, a wrenching sob, "No, please don't play that damned rebab!"
No use, my pleas: he set the bow, and fiddle pressed against his toe,
Unleashed a screech like molten lava cutting peasants down in Java,
So I stumbled, lurched and fell down stairsteps fleeing from that Hell,
And prayed I'd someday lose once more, my mem'ry of the second floor.
-----------------
[*] Or maybe it was, "The band is on the second floor..." Like
I said, there wasn't much light.