The Legionnaire

It’s dark below the ground. The endless night
soldiers speak of with fear, with dread, with smiles.
They know their lot, my boys. We’ve marched hard miles —
The Rhine, Danube, obscure borders. We fight

because we’re told. We have no other reason.
For years, I’ve served my Mithra men. I shone
the dark-lantern beam on hand-colored walls.
Men saw bull’s blood flow, the holy knife fall.

I snap closed the light. Dark. Men stand alone
underground. I know their hearts. How they shake
with fierce joy, with fear and the will to serve.
I teach, unnamed — call me Milo — men learn

what they need to know. They grope the curve
of the cold stone to colder night and turn
to face a blood moon. I force them to make
sense of what’s to come, of what they deserve.

[Mark J. Mitchell was born in Chicago and grew up in southern California. His latest poetry collection, Roshi San Francisco, was just published by Norfolk Publishing. Starting from Tu Fu  was recently published by Encircle Publications. He is very fond of baseball, Louis Aragon, Miles Davis, Kafka and Dante. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, the activist and documentarian, Joan Juster where he made his marginal living pointing out pretty things. Now, like everyone else, he’s unemployed. He has published two novels and three chapbooks and two full length collections so far. His first chapbook won the Negative Capability Award. Titles on request. A meager online presence can be found at A primitive web site now exists:  He sometimes tweet @Mark J Mitchell_Write.]