Readers Review Stereophile's Poem LP Second Runner-Up

Second Runner-Up

I walked alone down the darkening streets of Santa Fe; walked until I came to the deserted railroad tracks covered with rust, and watched my lengthening shadow play upon the wall of the old Depot Station. The crunch of the gravel beneath my feet reminded me that I'd been here before; and reminded me of the reason I'd come back.

I walked back up the winding street until I came to the house; knocked three times at the door, and waited.

"Yes?" a voice said.

"Joe sent me," I answered.

The door opened slowly; the tall man in the tattered straw hat admitted me to the candle-lit living room, and showed me my place in the circle of men seated on the floor. I sat. There were six of us.

"Now," the tall man whispered. "Now, we may begin."

He passed the pipe filled with the Sacred Smoking Mixture. Each of us, in turn, inhaled the smoke and held it in as long as we could. The pipe went around three times. The candle began to glow with nova intensity.

"Now, the drink," said the man. He passed a large earthen bowl filled with a bitter gruel. I took two large swallows and passed it. My breath came out in oven-hot blasts. It was the fire within.

The leader spoke again. "Tonight we must face our Warrior's Task. We must listen to this record." He held up the sleeve. I could make out the word "Poem." He slipped out the record and placed it on the turntable behind him.

The music seemed to come from everywhere at once.

"Listen!" I exclaimed. "The flute sounds! Like the plaintive cry of the lone coyote from the distant mountains!"

"Like the magical voice of our Brother the Wind," said another, "whispering though the barren trees under the full moon."

"The Ghost of Electricity, flowing from the Land of Mystery," came another, in a hushed tone.

"We commune with the Spirits of the Forgotten Time," said the Man in the Hat. "Listen, as they reveal their knowledge."

The room grew silent, except for the exquisite music, which seemed to go on forever. There was a sudden gust of wind; the candle flickered and went out. I sat in silence; the songs took me away in a spiraling vortex of images. There was a flash of blue light inside my brain; then black.

I awoke in a shivering sweat; the room was deserted, the dawn light creeping in through the torn curtains. I smelled flowers but there were none. I got up and stretched my stiff muscles, lit a cigarette, and walked out into the crisp morning air. If I could only turn back the clock...—Ronald J. Ramsey, Tesuque, NM