Reed Whittemore (1919-)

But for an hour's sleep in a filthy bed
And a couple of stops for coffee, you have been driving
Steady since yesterday noon--for your country,
Your scoundrel country, suddenly cause
Of all that afflicts you:  weather, a cold, a cough, and some psychic malaise
From not being where you should be, wherever that is.

But here at last is the Base; at the gate you exhibit
Your terrible summons, are passed, and pass on, in
To that old familiar wasteland of barracks and mess halls,
Where nothing, nothing has changed, could change, and no soldier,
No matter how daintily dandled and distanced by time,
Could think himself anywhere but (though unhappily) home.

You report to an insolent CQ reading the funnies.
You report to an empty supply room for sheets and blankets.
You report and report, sign your name, sign your name, and the forms
Lengthen, the files fatten, and lazily
The paperwork army marches, marches, marches
Through file-case crevasses, in-and-out-box morasses, everlastingly,

To chow.  And the years come back.
Chow, time's goal, time's grail, is again before you,
A mirage from out of your past in maybe a dozen
States and countries: hundreds of heavy
Days dragging toward hundreds of lunches and suppers,
And not a step further.

It all comes back.
And you, falling in, march too, again, toward chow,
Having lost in one tedious morning five or six years
Of omething that ailed you, and found the old remedy:
"Hip, hip.  Eyes front.  Chin up," to the tick
Of the marvellous stomach clock.

The New Yorker Book of Poems