Friday, September 8, 2017

Finalist: Ballade (Not Ballad) Contest: Elizabeth Ehrlich

Brighton Palace Ballade

A wounded conscript far from home
dangled, drugged in bloody grief,
woke to missing limb and bone
and gazed around in disbelief—
the jeweled hall and glittering gold-leaf,
a hospital commissioned from a vain
king’s palace for the War Relief.
No other vacant space remained.

Ten decades on, we tourists roam
the seaside town for pleasures brief
and smart, like the Palace, known
for its excess and art. Now our chief
goal is a good spot in which to leave
our car and start our tour before it rains.
We circle, stalk the street like thieves
but not a vacant space remains.

To us it's just a lovely hunk of stone, 
but once, a soldier lay beneath
the ornate frescoes, gilded domes,
with bitterness between his teeth
for this hard mess, though with relief
to be alive. So many tossed in pain
in their brave beds— call it reprieve—
that not a vacant space remained.

The earth is full of dead men. See
his words within a picture frame:
War is like leaves falling off a tree
and not a vacant space remains.

Elizabeth Ehrlich

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