top of page

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

Inside Your Mind

By Carl Martin Johnson

The hand held steady with the blade,
Gaze firm on the enemy’s eye.
The fighter whose attention strayed
Would be the one to die.

The battle noise around them stilled.
In their own world isolated.
One would kill, the other killed
In the arena they’d created.

Movements ruled by instinct pure,
Refined by arduous training.
Their death-dance delicate and sure.
A ballet of thrust and feigning.

An instant froze in each man’s mind.
They saw each other clearly.
They both had much to leave behind.
Both loved living dearly.

The victor in this bloody duel
Would also be the vanquished.
The fate that made him kill was cruel.
His heart forever anguished.

But there was no time for such thought.
There was fighting must be done.
Yet when the battle had been fought,
Neither man would have won.


By Carl Martin Johnson

You can kill me if you catch me,
If you believe you are good enough.
But I don’t think you will match me.
You are not of the right stuff.

We have crossed before.
Each time I have won.
You don’t bite up to your roar.
This time you will be done.

So may the sweet sun kiss your face.
May the stars light up your night.
May the war gods give you grace
To come with honor to the fight.

Stand before me if you can,
Manly combat, eye-to-eye.
Who will be the better man?
Who will be the last to die?


By Carl Martin Johnson

I hope that you remember me.
I’m the man you sent to war.
I gave all I had to keep you free
On a battlefield off far.

It was an honorable way to die.
I did not mind the pain.
I know it made my mother cry,
But I would do it all again.

There are years of living I will not see.
Children I won’t watch grow.
Sweetheart kisses that will not be.
It was worth it, even so.

Just hold our country dear.
Bless this good land when you pray.
Our nation’s values hold sincere.
And remember me today.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I feel the dead around me.
The ones I left behind.
I smell their cool scent surround me
Seeping slow into my mind.

They smile and call me by my name.
Even dead they are my brothers.
They said I’d be welcome when I came.
I’d have a place there with the others.

I should have been beside them,
When they charged toward the Light.
It was my job to guide them,
Like I did down in the fight.

I asked them to excuse me.
It was my fate to live.
Death did not then choose me.
My brothers will forgive.

Soon we will all embrace.
Earthly battles will be done.
Together see God’s Face.
Our Final Battle won.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I see them crawling up this hill.
They know that I’m the last.
They’re closing slowly for the kill.
My heart is beating fast.

My brothers lie around me,
But we’ve downed more of them.
Damned shame they still surround me.
Odds of my living are pretty slim.

Maybe I won’t mind too much.
I’m torn up pretty bad.
There’s pain every place I touch.
It makes me goddamned mad.

That skinny one’s looking right at me.
He’s waiting for his shot.
I guess whatever comes will be.
He might get me, he might not.

If I had bullets, he’d be dead.
They don’t know, but soon they will.
Then I’ll “go to glory”, like the preacher said,
When they come charging up that hill.

See that big bird up there,
High up in the sky.
Wonder if I said a prayer,
He’d take me with him when I die.



By Carl Martin Johnson

War called to me from the depths of Hell.
He told me I was needed..
There were troubles I had to quell.
War’s summons can’t go unheeded.

He said: “This you were born to do.
To hunt and fight and slay.
You must to yourself be true
When wartimes come your way.”

It was an order, not a request.
I could not refuse.
Though, to you, I must confess,
War is what I choose.

Yet I was tiring of the killing,
Growing sick of pain and gore.
I was every year less willing
To warmake any more.

I looked deep inside my mind,
Saw all the dead and dying.
The butchery of others of my kind,
And my cold eyes began crying.

I took my sword and threw it.
The blade I would not wield again.
Now at last I knew it.
To Warmake is a sin.



By Carl Martin Johnson

I saw you coming hard at me,
Your bayonet held ready.
You would kill, that I could see.
I kept my weapon steady.

Your bullets hit, but the wounds were small.
Just enough to spoil my aim.
I fired my whole clip and let it fall,
Then froze as on you came.

Our eyes locked; I saw you knew.
Like me, far past the fear.
There was nothing we could do.
Our fates would be decided here.

I see your eyes now fixed on mine
I hear your battle cry.
Soon the blood of one will shine,
Or perhaps we both will die.

If it is I, I wish you well.
You are the last face I will see.
Last look I’ll know this side of Hell,
For all Eternity.


By Carl Martin Johnson

This is an ordinary breath,
One of many I have taken.
Will it be the last before my death?
Have I been forsaken?

All the others have pulled back.
I’m trapped here alone.
Soon the enemy will attack,
Then I’ll die here on my own.

But this breath is real.
It tells me I’m alive.
Though full circle has turned my wheel.
I will not long survive.

My nostrils inhale deep.
Life filling full each lung.
If I am soon to sleep,
Then let my song be sung.

This breath I will cherish.
I will hold it in with pride.
I will stand now and I will perish.
But my breath will know how well I died.



By Carl Martin Johnson

Enough Dr Jekyll for a while.
Time for Mr Hyde.
Need more rock ‘n roll in my style
To resurrect my warrior pride.

I will find a cause that needs me,
One that is worth my dying,
So if the enemy bleeds me,
You will not see me crying.

I’ve been too long in hiding
Behind my poet’s pen.
My time I have been biding.
Time to join the battle again.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I have slipped inside your mind.
Now I know who you are.
You and I are the same kind.
Born beneath the same blue star.

I look out through your eyes,
And see the world your way.
Finding, with some surprise,
To the same god we both pray.

The roses that you smell
Give the same sweet scent to me.
No difference can I tell
In olfactory identity.

The songbirds heralding dawn
Sound alike to both our ears.
And when the sun is gone,
We share the dark night’s fears.

We fight on this blood-soaked field
Because our honor says we must.
Alike, neither man will yield,
So next we share Death’s dust.



By Carl Martin Johnson

Not all of us died outright,
Only the lucky few.
The rest of us still had to fight,
More suffering to do.

The screams of shock and pain,
The tracers’ swift green arc,
Blood spurting, mixed wiith rain,
Torment and terror in the dark.

Sudden silence, hard and pure,
And the cordite’s acrid smell.
The disease that has no cure,
Death’s muted tolling bell.

Then gunfire over wounded moans.
Each shot an agony ended.
Awaiting, frightened and alone,
The bullet for us intended.

We lay war’s art when day came light,
Bloodless pale and milk-filmed eyes.
Patient for the fall of night
To unleash our soul’s to rise.

Now in the dark we must patrol,
In the place between two lives.
Nor God nor Satan thirst to control
That part of us which survives.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I feel life coursing through my veins,
My mortality close behind.
Yet this is worth the risk and pains.
Fear weighs but lightly on my mind.

Below in the heavy jungle growth,
Hidden well, the enemy waits.
The god of war has claimed us both.
He controls our fates.

But now I’m in another place.
Far up, adrenalin high.
I look eternity in the face.
I stare into God’s eye.

This is a moment I would not trade,
Though in minutes I may die.
I will throw myself out unafraid
I am a warrior who can fly!


By Carl Martin Johnson

The man beside me had a child.
The man beside me had a wife.
The bullet aimed at me went wild,
And took that soldier’s life.

I met him just this morning
When reinforcements came.
Too bad there’s no forewarning
When Fate blows out Life’s flame.

His blood runs down my face.
His head rests on my shoulder.
Why not me there in his place?
Why me the one getting older?

I sense his soul now fleeing
This field of pain and death.
Is it me that he is seeing
As he lets go his last breath?

We will meet before long, my brother.
Don’t resent my living on.
In this war or another,
My time will soon be gone.



By Carl Martin Johnson

A softly graceful butterfly
Settled gently on my arm.
I thought it came to say goodbye.
It knew I would not harm.

Its wings were the hues of angels’ eyes.
They fanned me with Heaven’s breeze.
Was it a real angel in disguise
Come to put my soul at ease?

I moved slowly my good hand,
Taking the creature in my palm.
It somehow made me understand
I would survive if I stayed calm.

I raised it to my bloody face.
It kissed my fear away.
I had not yet run Life’s race.
I would not die that day.


By Carl Martin Johnson

My wound will leave no scar.
It will have no time to heal
Looks like I’m done with war.
My life has come full wheel.

We are an unloved lot,
Me and others of my kind.
I deserve just what I got,
The death I knew I’d find.

The fight still rages ‘round me,
Yet I am here apart.
Destiny at last has found me.
I can feel my dying start.

This cause has been largely just
I won’t fight for pay alone.
So, bleeding in the dust,
My honor I still own.

Born centuries too late,
Years past I’d’ve been a knight.
Well, that was not my fate,
No matter how well I fight.

So, Satan greet me, if you dare.
I will meet you with this prayer:
“Vive la mort; Vive la guerre!
Vive le sacre mercenaire!”


By Carl Martin Johnson

I saw a solder die today,
But not on a battlefield.
He had slowly wasted away
From wounds that had not healed.

There were ragged scars on his worn face.
Those wounds were not what killed him.
His life was drained by the fanged embrace,
From the vampire of memories that filled him.

He had seen many comrades die,
Disemboweled, bloody and torn.
Yet, he kept fighting, head held high,
Honoring the uniform he’d worn.

He came home a different man,
A stranger to his friends.
To know a warrior only another can,
Anyone else only pretends.

He drifted away as the years went by,
Until he was alone.
He had lost, without knowing why,
Everything he’d known.

Beneath lonely highway bridges he slept,
Finding shelter from the rain.
Fewer and fewer of life’s recollections he kept,
Because they mostly caused him pain.

This morning I happened to see him here,
On the bench where I am now.
I came close, holding back a tear,
To ask him why and how.

He spoke softly for a little while.
Told me what his life had been.
Then he closed his eyes, and with a smile
Dropped his unshaven chin.

From this sleep he will not wake.
He will rest untroubled at last.
I said a prayer for his soul’s sake,
Asked God to hold him fast.

There are more like him with wounded mind,
Warriors with pain deep as any other.
I will find them and be kind.
Because, like him, they are my brother.



By Carl Martin Johnson

Dawn is knocking, golden red,
Chasing blue into the sky.
The sun will bloom when the moon has fled,
And the stars have blinked goodbye.

Out the window life begins
I feel its throbbing heart,
All its virtues, all its sins,
Every vibrant part.

The breeze carries in the morning songs
From early rising birds.
Music that to us all belongs,
Though we all hear different words.

I see all the changes,
From morning through the night.
The outside rearranges
From the darkness to the light.

One day I will get up from this bed.
I will join the world outside.
For now the window will serve instead
To make me glad I have not died.


The Dead Patrol
A Love Note To My Enemy
Remember Me
Combat Jump
I Feel The Dead
The Man Beside Me
The Hill
The Butterfly
Death Of A Mercenary
I Saw A Soldier Die Today
My Enemy's Eyes
The Window
Resurrection Of The Warrior
bottom of page