by Jackie Houchin
I know this is an unusual post, but in this time of lock-down, I’ve not been able to focus on writing anything new. So I’m presenting this Ballad I wrote for a Creative Writing class at Glendale Community College. I’ve tried to publish it, but no one will take this many stanzas (27), although one of the lines is only ONE word. Can you find it? And it’s less than 600 words.
This ballad is based on a real person I knew, a man who had Grand Mal epilepsy.
“A Cruel Blessing”
In olden days, the ancient Land
Of Ararat became
The birthplace of a first born son—
So beautiful, but lame.
The lameness was inside of him,
A sleeping fiend, unseen,
That would attack and seize him fast
Once he became a teen.
But now, the babe lay peacefully
Against his mother’s breast,
And drank her nectar, white and rich,
And safely took his rest.
They double blessed and named the boy
Vartan and Victory.
Then sprinkled him with holy oil
To seal his destiny.
A close-knit tribe, his kin instilled
Within their growing child,
A pride of place, and heritage,
A name kept undefiled.
The father taught Vartan to war,
And laid in Victory the love
Of truth, and God and friend.
The mother gave him nourishment
To make him strong of limb.
Likewise, the food for soul and mind
She gently forced within.
Then on their son they placed this grave
“The future of this clan does rest
On your integrity.”
Relentlessly the clock of months
Ticked thirteen times around.
Vartan approached his manhood proud,
A prince as yet uncrowned.
But on his honored day there struck
A death – so fresh, so raw.
The gruesome end of one most dear
Was what young Vartan saw.
Then deep within the boy-man’s frame
An aura and a flash
Preceded tremors, shakes and quakes,
A weakness, then a crash.
Like frozen forms the family
Around the crumpled lad
Took in with shock and fright the sight,
And wailed, “Our son is mad!”
They mourned the loss of hopes and dreams,
(As well, the one so dear),
And wake became a vigil grim;
A sick bed and a bier.
Vartan lay still as death that night;
The other’s corpse quite close.
At dawn they lowered bones below,
But Victory arose!
A celebration wild with joy
Then met the rising son.
They dared to hope that only once
The dreadful foe had won.
Forgotten soon the grievous curse
As manly, Vartan grew.
A wanton woman caught his eye,
Then taught him all she knew.
But in the rush of ecstasy
The pleasures turned to pains.
He screamed, convulsed, then toppled down
Amidst a dozen stains.
In shame they found the fallen oak
And slowly hauled him home.
Beside the hearth, he warmed and woke
With kin, but all alone.
A disciplined and structured life
He thought would bring release.
Vartan desired glory bright,
But Victory sought peace.
So in the frozen, northern wastes
A soldier he became.
And hardship burned the dross from him;
A cruel and thorough flame.
But still, in light-less days he fell
A victim to his plight.
And so there came to dwell in him
A darkness more than night.
A disciplined and structured life—
This time, a different kind;
In solitude and quietness
Release he’d surely find.
So to the Church, went Victory.
He knelt, and prayed and read.
Now sixty months of sanity
Have eased his tortured head.
A Holy Man, a Prophet true
Is what he’s meant to be.
For holy oil had marked him thus,
And sealed his destiny.
Now from the monastery, he
Speaks out the Truth he’s learned,
And prays forgiveness from his kin
For hopes and dreams he’s spurned.
For from Vartan no seed will flow
To populate the clan,
And to defend the name and place
There’s no one who will stand.
But, praise! The sleeping fiend has fled—
It dared not seize a priest!
So God and Church held Vartan in…
And Victory released.
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