Long March

“The Long March,” “Sunday Sunday,” and “Marie”

In Issue 67 by Jack D. Harvey

Long March
Photo by David Tomaseti on Unsplash

The Long March

Bound on some skillful retreat,

a long march

north and west;

cut off from the rest

we end up foraging

in some scanty orchard,

the two of us.

I said, comrade, it's cold

for this season, bitter,

the wind has frozen

the seed in the plum,

the fruit is stiff

as a clotted heart

my blood beats slow

and the ground beneath my feet

seems to weave and thrust

like the deck of a ship.

Who talks like that,

lost on a long march?

A mouthful of sounding words

fraught with portentous gist;

get rid of it. Forget it.

This is not a time

for gaudy language.

Where are we?

Who knows?

How lost we are,

like Hercules in Seneca

in wild despair

at his battered senses,

his dislocation from insanity.

We walked for days;

not even a crust of bread;

my comrade

failing before my eyes.

At the end of the day

at the end of many days

we lay down to rest

on the cold earth.

What were we doing here?

Lost in our reckoning

lost in our quest.

Without us, oblivious,

the army marches on.

What are two lost

among thousands?

Morning came

and he was dead.

I dug a grave for him

slaving in the hard earth

and buried him

as best I could.

He lies forever forgotten

in a land where nothing grows.

But over his grave

the very flowers of hell

could not grow wilder,

more luxuriant

or more fertile with the life

of the deep earth

than exactly here

at this lonely place.

Red flowers blazing,

red banners waving;

the army marches on.

Palinurus of old,

Aeneas' helmsman,

by a god's spell

fell fast asleep;

overboard he fell

fighting for his life

in the unquiet sea;

days later

washed ashore

shook off the water

and walked forward, thankful,

thinking to be saved,

only to be slaughtered

by rude folk, left unburied

on some foreign shore.

There's more to the story

but forget it.

Was your luck better?

Straight up dead

from hunger and deprivation

dead and buried

there you lie;

no glamour or legend

ringing down the ages,

none at all for that.

Still, in my old age

in this unsteady life

nothing more certain

I remember

than the candle

I light for you,

burn for you

every blessed

passing light-

going year.

Sunday, Sunday

Woke up Sunday,

woke up after dreaming

my fate was bound to fire

like Meleager's

chunk of charred wood,

soon to be burnt out;

my feet felt cold as ice,

the chill rising

as Althaea walked to the hearth,

her heart full of vengeance.

Not much time for reflection

on the dark strokes,

the darker vision,

the harsh visitation

of a troubled night.

Woke up Sunday alone

in a room dark

as a poke;

got myself together

in the warm sun

of the afternoon

went down to the corner

and looked in the saloon;

the place empty and cold,

barren and bright

as a new-built tomb;

no comfort there.

I got the Sunday wearies,

blue as a cop on the beat.

My baby's gone gone gone,

I'm a long way from home

got no gumption in my feet.

Long lonesome roads

beckon like open sesames,

long footweary roads

turning and bending,

black tarry tentacles

from this county seat

stretch out akimbo

to take me nowhere

I want to go.

Look down, look down

these weary roads

you sometime will

need to walk

and think what you lost;

she's gone forever

dead and gone your love

and there's nothing

you or God

or the good green earth

can do to bring her back.

Let the brand be put out

the fire do its worst,

run me out with its embers.

My heart is broken,

I don't care

dead or alive

my time here

the way I was

is over.

Marie

Oh Marie, you are

an aging wreck;

your dangling dugs,

your languid wrinkled Miss Muffet

won't bring the milkman early;

dirty and smelly

slattern of the month,

the epitome of

everybody's discarded laundry.

Lapses in motor function

mental focus

get you to the streetcar

late every day

and late to work;

booted out

sooner or later

when you get home

what will he say?

What a burden

for our pity and revulsion;

you're frightening

in your squalor.

Night and day

a dead soul

an endless round

of apathy and despair,

what kind of life is that?

That's what we think.

But some rare times,

God knows why

somehow roused,

triumphant

between the bed posts

like a shaky marionette

you rise and fall

to the challenge

of bleary marital bliss;

for those few moments

assertive queen,

sweating with your

hirsute timorous king

dismantling him,

cannibalizing him,

you burst forth new-made,

king and queen together,

amorous two-backed beast

before your reign fades away

in the glimmer of tomorrow

and you come apart,

Priapic darling,

again become

what you were.

Alas, Marie, time's more

than a placeholder;

eater, destroyer

changing Nineveh

and all of us to dust;

false fellow traveler

rubbing us out

of our space and place

before we know it.

About the Author

Jack D. Harvey

Jack D. Harvey’s poetry has appeared in Scrivener, The Comstock Review, Valparaiso Poetry Review, The Write Launch, Typishly Literary Magazine, The Antioch Review, The Piedmont Poetry Journal and elsewhere. The author has been a Pushcart nominee and over the years has been published in a few anthologies.
The author has been writing poetry since he was sixteen and lives in a small town near Albany, New York. He is retired from doing whatever he was doing before he retired.
His book, Mark the Dwarf, is available on Kindle.

Read more work by Jack D. Harvey .