"The ballroom that gave rise to this poem is actually the old, unused ballroom in the Wolcott Hotel in NYC; several years ago, when staying at the hotel, I discovered in the room literature that there was a ballroom, and when I asked, the concierge let me see it. It was magnificent and sad. I thought of it again a while ago when a friend was staying at a past-its-glory hotel in Blackpool, in England--and my first instinct was to ask him to find out if they had a ballroom."
Blue-veined, the marble pillars
soar up into the darkness
toward windows which would be
sunbursts if there were sun,
if they were not begrimed
with years of dust and cobwebs.
The smell is earthy with
leftover corsages and cigarettes.
Sound crowds back in from
the foxed mirrors on the walls: strings
and horns from a long-dead orchestra.
You sense them all—the tails,
the organdy gowns—as they swirl past,
the ghostly coquettes smiling
at men who sailed long ago
from this sparkling promise
into disappointed old age and death.
Still, you lift your arms
to your phantom partner,
your footprints in the dust like those
of a drunken man in snow.
Anne Britting Oleson has been published widely in North America, Europe and Asia. She earned her MFA at the Stonecoast program of USM. She has published two chapbooks, The Church of St. Materiana (2007) and The Beauty of It (2010).