WAR SONG  - The poems on these pages are dedicated to the "song" of human combat. The honor, the bravery, the sacrifice.....and the horror, blood and death. It is neither a glorification nor a condemnation of war. It seeks to give some insight into one of the major occupations of Man from the very beginning of humanity.         -Carl Martin Johnson

 

© Carl Martin Johnson, All rights reserved

 
 

LOVE SONG TO MY FLAG
By Carl Martin Johnson

Like the skirts of a lovely dancing girl
My country’s banner flies.
My heart beats fast to see her whirl,
Stars and Stripes ‘gainst azure skies.

Beneath her men have fought and died.
Valiant souls who held her dear.
Patriot hearts she still fills with pride.
In our enemies she strikes fear.

Mothers yet give up their young
To keep her flying proud.
So when I hear her anthem sung,
I’ll stand and sing it loud.

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WARRIOR DUTY
By Carl Martin Johnson

Sing to me of the beauty
In the soul of every man
Who when called for warrior duty
Does the best he can.

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GUARDIAN TO HIS CHARGE
By Carl Martin Johnson

I will hold the lightning.
I will still the thunder.
You will never find life frightening,
Though storm clouds we walk under.

My cloak will stop the rain.
My strong arms will warm you.
You will feel no pain.
I’ll let nothing harm you.

Bravely face the day.
I will make you strong.
The dragon we will slay,
And the world will sing your song.

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TAKE SHELTER IN THE NIGHT
By Carl Martin Johnson

Take shelter in the night.
Let its dark arms surround you.
It will hide you from the fight,
And the madness that’s around you.

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I DID NOT WANT TO WAKE YOU
By Carl Martin Johnson

I left while you were sleeping.
I did not want to wake you.
There’s a promise I’ll be keeping,
But I will not forsake you.

I knew that you would cry,
And I could not bear the sight.
I’ve tried hard to tell you why
My honor makes me fight.

You’ll be sad, I know,
But you’d not love a coward.
You always knew when called I’d go,
Or our love would not have flowered.

Look for me in the dawn
When the fighting’s done.
I’ll return to carry on
The love that we’ve begun.

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DEAD MAN’S SMILE
By Carl Martin Johnson

He’d not been very long dead
When I came upon the fight.
The enemy had fled.
I heard them running in the night.

I knew him from before,
Though I’d never heard his name.
Now he lay in bloody gore,
Victim of war’s horrid game.

I stopped to give him aid,
But he was beyond pain
From the curse mankind had made
When Abel fell to Cain.

I envied him his peace.
He was done with war.
For him killing would cease,
No more wounds would scar.

He had met the beast.
He had passed the trial.
In my mind at least,
I saw that dead man smile.

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LIKE WOUNDED WOLVES AT BAY
By Carl Martin Johnson

We howled wildly as we fought,
Like wounded wolves at bay.
We’d win or die where we were caught.
We could not get away.

Our barrels glowed bright hot.
Blood flew from combat knives.
There was no time for thought.
Instinct ruled our lives.

When night fell as brief shield,
Each man kept fear alone.
Silence swept the field,
Save for the wounded’s moan.

But in the dark they’d come again.
Though tired, we dared not sleep.
To live we had to win,
And we had promises to keep.

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THE OLD MAN’S WELCOME
By Carl Martin Johnson

The old man stood on the windswept plain
Where he fought so long ago.
Now only restless ghosts remain
And only crosses grow.

He was a warrior then, and young.
Like his brothers, he was brave.
He would ensure his song was sung
Before life dug his grave.

On this field he became a man.
He well proved his worth.
Here his lifelong quest began
To give value to his birth.

Specters littered the blood-soaked field.
The old man walked among them.
Phantom shapes lay with wounds unhealed
Where the battle’s fate had flung them.

Then one looked into his eyes,
And spoke with no word said.
“This is how an old warrior dies.
Welcome to the dead.”

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THE POSSE
By Carl Martin Johnson

At least I will not hang.
The desert has no trees.
The rest of my old gang
Are back swingin’ in the breeze.

The moon lights up the night,
Helps my good mare find her way.
The hard land flat and bright.
The cool white rivals day.

Come dawn the pack will find me.
Their scent I almost smell.
I don’t dare look behind me.
I might see the hounds of Hell.

I hear the desert sounds,
Life’s music in my ears.
Best check my pistol’s rounds,
And try to hold my fears.

They won’t bring me in.
They’ll just hurt me bad.
Then they’ll kill me for my sin.
They’re not evil, just wolf mad.

Guess I should beg the Lord,
But beggin’ ain’t my style.
I’ve lived fast and hard.
Reckon’ I will burn a while.

So I’ll just look up at that sky,
Farewell that desert moon.
All men have to die.
And my end’s comin’ soon.

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WAITING AT THE GATE
By Carl Martin Johnson

I knelt beside him while he died.
I couldn’t let him die alone.
A lesser man would have surely cried.
He sat still without a moan.

He stared at things I could not see,
Far past the jungle’s sky,
Coming to set his tired soul free,
To help a brave man die.

He knew his wound was mortal.
He knew he had not long.
He was near to Heaven’s portal.
This was the last day of his song.

He turned to me and smiled.
Now he would let go.
His warrior soul was reconciled.
Soon the Truth he’d know.


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SGT JACKSON
By Carl Martin Johnson

Sergeant Jackson lost the war today.
The enemy finally won.
He’d fought the battle night and day,
But the fight at last was done.

The enemy took him unaware,
Though he knew the end was near.
He just had time to say a prayer
To overcome his fear.

Odd, the brave sergeant thought,
That his defeat took so long.
He wondered at how long he’d fought.
He was proud he’d been so strong.

He held it a source of pride
That his enemy was so brave.
He wished he’d been on the sergeant’s side.
Then both lives they might save.

The barrel had a metallic taste
As it fit between his jaws.
He had not found the peace he’d chased.
It was time for life to pause.

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BEWARE THE TIGER
By Carl Martin Johnson

Beware the tiger when he stalks,
Lest his hunger you would sate.
At his side Death’s Horseman walks,
And feeds on mankind’s hate.

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HOW A SOLDIER DIES
By Carl Martin Johnson

I woke to dawn this morning,
Streaking crimson across the sky.
I should have recognized the warning:
This was the day I’d die.

Many brothers had gone ahead.
There were few of us remaining.
We were wounded who were not dead.
No air support in the monsoon raining.

There dangled a shredded sleeve
Where my left arm used to be.
Foolish, though, to grieve,
So close to eternity.

Our medic got me high
So I could stand the pain.
I swore to fight, or try.
Looks like I swore in vain.

Then I saw them coming.
They’d fixed their bayonets.
My heart was wildly drumming.
But too late for regrets.

Now I’m staring at that dawn
With no life behind my eyes.
My soul is moving on.
This is how a soldier dies.

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IN HONOR OF OUR VETERANS
By Carl Martin Johnson

He answered duty’s call.
Put himself in grave harm’s way.
We didn’t see him fall,
Or the price he had to pay.

When they play our nation’s song.
When the flag flies overhead.
His love of country is so strong,
He is grateful that he bled.

Our sons and daughters fight our wars,
Or we would have no nation.
Inside and out they bring back scars
That we must soothe with celebration.

Extend the honor they deserve.
Thank them for their deeds.
They showed us their nerve,
Now let us attend their needs.

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HOPLITE AT REST
By Carl Martin Johnson

Every time I breathe,
I give thanks that I’m alive.
My sword sleeps in its sheathe.
No more killing to survive.

My shield I use for shade,
No lance point to deflect.
My short dagger’s blade
Is rusting from neglect.

I watch my children play,
At night embrace my wife.
If the gods grant me my way,
This is how I’ll live my life.
 

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MY HOMELESS BROTHER
By Carl Martin Johnson

You will always be my brother.
You fought bravely at my side.
Hard combat was our mother,
Giving birth to warrior pride.

When our fight was done,
We came home to make our way.
The battles we had won
Were from another day.

We each had different fates.
While I prospered, you grew thin.
We cannot know what in life awaits,
Only what life has been.

But, brother, I will find you,
Give you shelter from the storm.
You’ll leave hard times behind you,
And no more come to harm.

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GREAT-GRANDAD THE LAWMAN
By Carl Martin Johnson

Great-grandad was a lawman.
He kept his pistol clean.
He was lightning with his draw, man.
Fastest ever seen.

Four bad men rode into town,
Wild mischief on their mind.
They quickly shot the deputy down.
They were the killing kind.

Great-grandad heard the gunfire,
And rushed out to the street.
But he saw no one fire.
The gang was making their retreat.

Great-grandad fired a warning.
He shouted “Face me if you dare!
Fight me here this morning,
Or I’ll chase you anywhere!”

The four turned, grinning, to him.
They would kill this man and quick.
But if the outlaws ever knew him,
They’d have made another pick.

Four long Colts boomed as one.
Only one shot found its mark.
My Great-grandad was not done.
He let his six-gun bark.

He took steady aim,
While the gunmen lost their nerve.
His revolver shot out flame,
And fate evil men deserve.

When the smoke cleared in the town,
The gang lay bleeding on the ground.
Four bad outlaws down.
Four damned souls sure Hell-bound.

Great-grandad wore a scar
From the round that grazed his face,
And a dent in his marshal’s star
That saved him by God’s grace.

He was my hero, that old man,
When he told me that great story.
I’ll hear it once more, if I can,
When I join him in Glory.

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GO SOFTLY DOWN THE ROAD
By Carl Martin Johnson

Go softly down the road.
Don’t wake them who are sleeping.
They’ve paid the debt they owed.
They are beyond our weeping.

Yesterday they walked beside us.
Now they’ve gone ahead.
To return, perhaps, to guide us
Into the dark land of the dead.

Pass hushed until that day.
Do not disturb their rest.
Soon enough we’ll have to pay
Our debt like all the rest.

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JOHN JACOB
By Carl Martin Johnson

John Jacob was a friend of mine.
He fought long at my side.
I felt the sun would no more shine
The day John Jacob died.

Since childhood we were tight.
No one could break our bond.
If one was in a fight,
The other would respond.

So when I went to war,
John Jacob came along.
He said “Wherever you are
Is the place where I belong.”

We did battle in the jungle heat,
In combat joined as one.
Then one day we faced defeat.
We were being overrun.

John Jacob flashed a smile
As the enemy charged in.
He said “See you in a while.
I’m glad you’ve been my friend.”

He pushed in front of me
To shield me from sure death.
He’d not let the enemy see,
Though it cost him his last breath.

John Jacob was my friend.
No better man I’ve found.
He met a hero’s end.
Now John Jacob’s Heaven bound.

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PRAYER BEFORE BATTLE
By Carl Martin Johnson

If in this battle I must die,
Father, make me brave.
Let no man see me cry.
Lord, my honor save.

May posterity revere me.
May my sons be proud.
God, my Maker, hear me.
Let not my head be bowed.

When enemy lives I take,
I will do so with no malice,
With no bloodthirst to slake,
Nor venom in my chalice.

If, God willing, I survive,
I will lead a life of worth,
And forever I will strive
To give value to my birth.

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NO ONE AT THE GRAVE
By Carl Martin Johnson

There was no one at the grave
When they put him in the ground.
There’d be no memory to save,
No trace of him to be found.

Yet, he had lived a life,
And mostly lived it well.
He’d seen joy and strife,
Though there was no one to tell.

He had died in a strange land,
With no one to call friend.
Not what he had planned,
But who can know their end?

He had had a story.
He’d not always walked alone.
There were moments filled with glory,
Sunsets he had known.

But as the dirt fell on his face,
His soul smiled and took flight.
Now he’d be held in God’s embrace
In Eternity’s long night.

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