by VIRGINIA HAMILTON ADAIR
ALL of earth’s men are on the march somewhere.
Oat of two stolen continents depart
The sons of heaven and the supermen;
Mirages take the maps; none can refind
The way he came; the herded slave, once more
A man, repeats the names of vanished towns;
The bearded skeleton sees an unknown world
Beyond the wire, through layers of vertigo,
Where roofless women push their carts and children
To the last ditch beyond the famished farm;
Exiles still seek, through the indifferent nations,
A halt, a habitation, and a smile.
Blessed citizen of a country still uncharred
Our cast-off worker reconverts to hunger;
Hunts through the critical cities for a sign.
Even our soldier, banished in such glory
To set the world to rights, looks in a daze
Down to the dock and the returning transport;
Relaxes his hazy purpose and his fear:
Tries to remember, was home there, or here.
War’s hated and intense environment
Shared by unshaven misery through shock
And deprivation and profane endurance
Now as he leaves it no less hated still
Reclaims him darkly; clamors in his head;
This despised earth received his excrement,
Yielded him brackish water for his throat
And burning body; took his exact weight
In fever and in sleep and while he fed;
Buried his fear for him in sodden holes
Beneath the iron singing and fall of shells.
Here too his brothers lie, rebuild the soil;
And but for some ballistic error, here lies he.
Uncentered present pushes the fondled past
Slaps at the future’s pale, unfeatured face.
The soldier asks, “This transport take me back?
Back where? What map can show the point
To which I can return and call my home?”
Arrived, he shuts the door, faces the room
Of past, well-dusted peace, with smiling eyes.
Doubt waits at doors, hums at the windy eaves,
Hides sleepless in the dry leaves, slyly enters
The echoes and the silence of his bed,
Hinting, this is not home. Departure, not return,
His lot forever now if he would find
Where the center has shifted to. For some will search
And some will shut the door and marry doubt.
All men are now survivors of one hour
When by their knowledge and their desperate need
They split the unseen, indivisible core
Of God and matter, scattering their last belief.
Scientist, soldier, worker, preacher, planner,
Pall in with all men henceforth on the march
Within themselves, imploring passage home.