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

MISSED GLORY
By Carl Martin Johnson

Fierce eagle of my youth
Where have you flown?
I am weary, in truth.
Stooped, wrinkled, alone.

I once rode wild horses,
My sabre gleamed bright,
As I charged enemy forces
In morn’s golden light.

And evil men feared me.
They knew me by name.
Many cried as they neared me,
In cowardly shame.

I stormed with Rough Riders
Up the hill named San Juan.
We were the deciders
In the battle we won.

And I galloped with my men
Through the woods of Argonne.
We were invincible then,
With torn flesh, shattered bone.

Yes, the best of us fell
In the heat of the fight.
Raging into the hell
Of the enemy’s might.

All my comrades who died
When forced to the test,
I remember with pride.
A loving pain in my chest.

Only I now remain.
I’ve outlived every one.
Feeling my life slowly drain.
Coming slowly undone.

I wish I had gone, too,
In a red blaze of glory.
I would have if I knew
The rest of Life’s story.

So I stand here today
Before honor’s holy shrine.
If I knew how, I would pray
To make a hero’s death mine.

Dear God, take me back
To this old mission’s walls.
To face Santa Ana’s attack,
To die brave as it falls.

Then my song would be sung.
Be a story to know.
Whenever bells are rung
For Sacred Alamo.


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THE COMPANY OF MY KIND
By Carl Martin Johnson

Many have died before me.
Many will die behind.
But Heaven saves a place for me,
With others of my kind.

We are all initiated,
Baptized by blood and war.
We are those that God created
So the rest could reach the Star.

Those of my brothers dead,
And we whose time will come,
Will march, archangels at our head,
To the beat of the Celestial Drum.

Forever we will defend
The souls that God created
Until this world’s end,
And the Paradise awaited.


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THE LEFT-HANDED HOPLITE
By Carl Martin Johnson

His shield was new, the Lambda centered
Bright red in the bronze’s gleam.
Spear and sword he carried, innocent of blood,
Neither, well-forged, had tasted deadly fight.
Nor had he, save in dream.

Sword on his belt, for use were he to last
The push through enemy line of the phalanx.
He thought not. The gods had cast
His fate, nor prayer, nor thanks
Would stay his death scream.

The spear wielded well in his left hand.
He tested its balance and thrust.
If he could fight thus in the stand,
He would account for himself well and just
Before his lifeblood was opened to stream.

But his left would not be allowed.
That was his shield hand, the spear in his right,
No other way could he and his fellows crowd
Together en masse to roll on in the fight.
And crush the Persian, earning Sparta’s esteem.

So he turned back only once to see his son and his wife
They would remember his going with pride.
The women who admonished, though it meant a man’s life,
“Come back with your shield, or on it.” held strong when you died.
He would be back in another life, should it suite the gods’ scheme.

And, next time, he prayed, no matter what the odds in the fight,
The hand he used well would not be left, but the right.


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A MAN LIKE ME
By Carl Martin Johnson

Today I know I’ll kill a man,
If last night’s dream comes true.
I’ll avoid it if I can,
But I’ll do what I must do.

Like me, he’s hiding in the trees
Waiting for dawn’s light,
Praying: “God help me please.
Give me courage for this fight.”

He has a girl back home, like me,
Or maybe she’s his wife,
Who never thought her love would be
Part of such bloody strife.

I bet his mother kneels to pray
Each night beside her bed,
That he will see another day
Unnamed among the dead.

His father sent a letter
To tell him of his pride,
And that made him feel better,
A worthy man inside.

One day he’ll want sons.
Daughters, too, if blessed.
If he survives the guns
Without a bullet in his chest.

But now the smell of death surrounds him.
Its coppery taste coats his tongue.
When he ponders, it astounds him,
That he might die so young.

It will start now any minute.
I check my weapon, so does he.
We both will try to win it.
Only one will live to see.

So, I salute you, enemy brother.
We are both in this dawn’s sun,
But today one will kill the other.
One of our lives will be done.

If my bullet fells you, please forgive me.
Only one can walk away, you see.
Sadly, I can’t let you outlive me,
Though you are just a man like me.
I may make it out….we’ll see.


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MEMORIAL DAY
By Carl Martin Johnson

You stand in Gabriel’s legions
With Michael at the fore.
In all of Heaven’s regions
No souls are valued more.

When word came of your death,
Your loved ones softly cried.
Then with the very next breath,
Their hearts swelled large with pride.

You are gone now from the war,
But never from the fight.
We cherish what you are,
Your memory glows full bright.

And, today while looking out
Over fields of neat white crosses,
I held back a grieving shout
Of despair at all your losses.

But there resides within me
Both a warrior and a poet.
I reconcile that which will be
Our crop if thus we sow it.

Yes, for those of us who fight
There awaits no better death
Than in striving for right
Till we cry out our last breath.

So break your ranks my brothers,
We’ll need a place, you see.
For me and many others.
It’s a warrior’s destiny.


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HOW I DIED
By Carl Martin Johnson

The pain was bad, but it’s gone now.
In fact, I feel nothing at all.
Like my body’s not here somehow.
I can’t walk, but I can crawl.

The others have moved out.
I heard them in the night.
I tried, but I couldn’t shout.
My throat was shot up in the fight.

They’ll come back if I just wait,
When they count heads and are missing me.
‘Course, it will likely be too late
To keep the Reaper from kissing me.

I wish I had a drink.
Cool water would be best.
It would help me think
About my folks before I rest.

I don’t like dying lonely
I’d like some comfort as I move on.
Looks like it’ll be me only
Who’ll know the moment I am gone.

I guess it could be worse.
I’ve seen many suffer more.
I saw them scream and curse
Before they made it through the door.

I’ll turn over to see the sun,
Let its lifefire burn out my eyes.
Then I’ll declare my battle won.
This is how a soldier dies.


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THE WOUND
By Carl Martin Johnson

It was no more than a sting at first,
But soon he felt the wet.
Then he realized and cursed.
It would hurt, but there was no pain yet.

The firefight was a free-for-all,
Bullets flying all around.
He’d dropped quick to a low crawl,
And hugged close to the ground.

The hit had come before, he thought.
He had ignored the tug he had felt.
No time to feel things when you fought.
You just played the cards you were dealt.

The fight burned hard on every side.
The enemy so near he could smell them.
If he moved he would be among those who died.
Any try for escape would tell them.

A rasping sounded back of the fire.
A wheezing from his chest.
Singing wet requiem like a funeral choir
To a soul on its final quest.

He ripped his shirt and saw red foam
Blowing like whale’s spout with each breath.
The wound was either a ticket home,
Or a free ride on the highway to death.

He grabbed his battlefield dressing
From the canvas web gear he wore,
And held it fast to the wound, compressing,
Forgetting the pain and the gore.

Consciousness was fading fast.
It was getting too hard to hold on.
He knew it unlikely he would last.
If he blacked out, he was probably gone.

But he was tired and bleeding to sleep,
If he died, well, that was his fate.
He shoved the bandage in the hole deep
And closed his eyes to wait.


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WARRIOR’S BLOOD
By Carl Martin Johnson

Some men are born with warrior’s blood.
It feeds them in the womb.
It flows from their hearts in bright red flood
Until they lie in a warrior’s tomb.

They take the fore with sword and shield
When the dragon nears the gate.
There they stand, refuse to yield,
While lesser men debate.

These men hate war but love the fight,
Yet they keep the peace secure.
Fellow citizens sleep safe at night,
And civilizations long endure.

They stand lonely and apart.
Their world is not the same.
A different drummer stirs their heart
With wildness they cannot tame.

So, when they return from war,
Heads bloody but unbowed,
Cheer them then for what they are,
And tell them you are proud.


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DEGUELLO
By Carl Martin Johnson

Cain’t see their faces... no more moon
Jus’ see their fires tonight.
An’ I’m still thinkin’ on that tune.
But I ain’t scared to fight.
Let’s just get it done with soon.

I wish the moon would get back out
From hidin’ in them clouds.
An’ I wish I could stop thinkin’ ‘bout
Me all wrapped in a fun’ral shroud.
I worry over that some, ain’t no doubt.

Don’t mean I ain’t glad I got to come here.
I ain’t never been so far.
Like Colonel Davy Crockett said “Don’t fear”
“It’ll be a real quick war.”
Still, I feel like bad times is near.

My big brother said he’d watch over me
Or Momma wouldn’t o’ let me come
I told her I ain’t no baby,
But, I guess to her I’m one.
One who fights man-like, she’ll see.

My birthday’s comin’, this March six.
I’ll be seventeen, that’s a man
An’ if Santa Ana starts his tricks,
He’ll be learnin’ what kind o’ man I am.
A Tennessean wins the fight he picks.

There’s a singin’ bird there below
Keepin’ me comp’ny with his song
While I stand watchin’ the fireglow
An’ wonder if I’ll be stayin’ long
In this fort called Alamo.


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MEDEVAC
By Carl Martin Johnson

The fountain of crimson spurt
Had dwindled to a stream.
I had never known such hurt,
But I would not allow a scream.

I lay beside two others,
Both worse hit than me.
I cursed and prayed with my brothers,
That death would leave us be.

I tried to pass out from the pain,
There was no morphine for relief.
But I could not still my brain,
Only clench my cracking teeth.

Then, above the battle’s din,
I heard blades slapping air.
I faced the others with a grin.
Our salvation would soon be there.

I saw the swooping, red-crossed bird
Charging bravely through the fire.
My heart sang loud without a word
For those who would pull us from this mire.

The chopper landed very near,
Taking rounds from every side.
I was the only one who cheered.
The other two had died.

My sergeant dragged me through the smoke
And threw me on the deck,
Before I saw him spit and choke
From a tracer through his neck.

The co-pilot was hit bad.
He folded over his stick.
Looked like the only chance we had
Was to lift off, and be quick.

Now I’m above the battleground,
Just me and the kid who’s driving.
Lots of flame and smoke around.
Seems this brave bird’s not thriving.

For some reason, I’m not worried.
If I’m to die, then it will be.
But, St Peter, don’t be hurried.
I may make it out….we’ll see.


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A WARRIOR’S BOAST
By Carl Martin Johnson

Did I send sufficient warning
In the fighting that I’ve done
That none escape my harming
If friends of the Evil One?

In their dreams do I strike fear?
Do they tremble when they wake?
Do they cringe when I draw near,
At the lives that I will take?

When suns set in the west,
Do they crowd the meeting places
Drinking hard to put to rest
The terror that scars their faces?

Then, made brave with gold mescal,
Do they conjure schemes to kill me?
Knowing, in spite of their cabal,
It will only serve to thrill me?

Do they recall all those who died
On hearing my battle roar?
For I have angels on my side,
And ancient gods of war.


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THE RED SUN
By Carl Johnson

Below the horizon he lay waiting.
The red sun of dawn,
Silent, anticipating
The cover of night to be gone.

His kingdom is the day.
He rules heat and light.
He would show us the way
We had lost in the night.

But the price would be high:.
Burned skin and thirst.
Some of us would die.
Our brave horses first.

I watch those who followed me
By the sun’s first glowing coal
In this land that has swallowed me,
That would this day eat me whole.

Because today it will be done.
There will be no quarter given
By the hard red sun
Or the enemy we have driven.

My spear is held high
So those behind me will see.
We will not easily die,
Not men such as we.

From the earth the sun grows,
Red as wolf pack’s fresh kill,
And I see that he knows
Things that I never will.

He looks down on my life
With neither good will nor ill,
Caring not for my strife,
If I die or I kill.

I could cry out to his fire.
He would not hear my plea.
He has no needs or desire,
No love felt for me.

It will mean nothing, my death.
It will not slow his rise.
His hot fiery breath
Will still light up the skies.

Yet it is I who live longer.
Part of a great holy plan.
I may not now seem stronger,
But I am, I am Man.


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