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.