The Duffel Bag

By David Harsent David Harsent
God’s blood beads on the tarmac and something rough is boiling up
just this side of the vanishing point, so it’s probably time to get

off this stretch of blacktop and into the wayside bar, where every cup
runneth over and you breast a thickening fret

of stogie smoke to get to the dank back room where a high stakes game
turns against you despite your trey of jacks, and soon enough   

you’re in way over your head with nothing and no one to blame
but the luck you’ve been getting since first you threw your stuff

into a duffel bag and hooked up with the halt and lame,
with the grifters and drifters, the die-hards, the masters of bluff,

the very bastards, in fact, who are lifting the last of your stash. . .
So it’s into the crapper and out through the window—you’re free

to do whatever you must, so long as that purple-and-yellow blush
in the sky doesn’t mean what it seems, so long as that lick of flame

from the hard-shoulder spillage doesn’t travel as far as the scree
of garbage in the lay-by, so long as that’s not your name

in the red top front-page splash on the trailer-trash kidnappee. . .
Just keep to the shadow-side, keep in under the lee

of roadside billboards, bed down in the roadside scrub, your dream
of Ithaca, that ghost town, though the rest is mystery—

what brought you to this and who might take the blame,
and how to get from the open road to a sight of the open sea.

Source: Poetry (September 2008).


This poem originally appeared in the September 2008 issue of Poetry magazine

September 2008
 David  Harsent


David Harsent's latest collection is Fire Songs (Faber and Faber, 2014). In Secret, his English versions of poems by Yannis Ritsos, was published in 2012 by Enitharmon Press.

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Travels & Journeys

Poetic Terms Allusion, Couplet

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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