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© Carl Martin Johnson, All rights reserved

The Shared Umbrella

By Carl Martin Johnson

I woke up from death this morning.
I stood up and looked around.
It was to me a brand new borning.
I was astounded at what I found.

The sun was rising in the east,
Painting Heaven’s portrait on the clouds,
Offering a golden-orange feast,
While wrapping night in glowing shrouds.

Happy morning birds flew by.
I could see their greeting song.
They decorated the blueing sky
With their multi-colored throng.

I saw a child’s green shout
Spinning playfully from the garden.
Visions of joy were bumping about
Running wild and asking no pardon.

I walked outside and smelled a rose.
I could see its sweet perfume.
And scented colors in all that grows,
Every herb and every bloom.

I saw the ruby taste of a fresh berry.
Soft yellow in the touch of a kitten’s fur.
All my senses were bright and merry,
Much more exultant than they were.

Suddenly I saw Truth.
It came into focus slowly.
I saw its age; I saw its youth,
Saw it in the great and in the lowly.

Truth took root and quickly grew.
My vision was becoming whole.
I looked inside, and then I knew.
I was seeing with my soul.


By Carl Martin Johnson

The sun is rising hard outside.
I feel its flames outside my cell.
This time tomorrow I will have died,
My soul feeding the flames of Hell.

There is no one to mourn,
No one to pray or grieve.
No “Taps” played on a horn.
Born alone, that’s how I’ll leave.

It is true I fight for pay.
For that I am often despised.
Still, when others run away,
It is then that I am prized.

My comrades may come free me,
Although I know the way things are.
If there’s a sacrifice it will be me.
I am expendable in their war.

I won’t waste time with regrets.
I freely chose the life I’ve led.
A free man can’t complain about what he gets.
I’ll do my moaning when I’m dead.

I’m feeling brave right now.
Can I make my courage last?
Will I refuse to scrape and bow
When the soldiers tie me fast?

When they march me to the wall,
When they aim their rifles straight,
Will I stand or will I fall?
Will I spit in the face of Fate?

I’m allowed to write this letter,
But I’ve got nowhere to send it.
It just makes me feel a little better,
Kind of a formal way to end it.

They are coming, I can hear them,
Their boots echoing on the stone.
That’s okay, I do not fear them.
I’ll walk my final steps alone.

I’d best say a quick prayer,
Hope God’s looking from the sky,
Ask Him to let me go where
Men like me are welcome when they die.




By Carl Martin Johnson


I walked into the scourging rain
To cleanse my sinful heart.
To wash away the guilty pain
That tears my soul apart.


I left all I love behind,
My woman and my friends,
For things I know I’ll never find,
By evil means I’ve reached worse ends.


Now there can be no return.
All my bridges burned and gone.
Until well-earned hellfire makes me burn,
I’ll just have to carry on.



By Carl Martin Johnson

Give me a kiss by moonlight,
And I’ll give you one by day.
Embrace me in the firelight.
When it grows dark we’ll play.

We’ll roll together in the summer grass,
Anointing our bodies with the flowers,
Watching the bright cotton clouds float past,
Running naked in the showers.

I will tickle your neck with a fresh leaf,
Stroke your back with a scented wildflower,
Make you tingle all over beyond belief,
Make your body feel its power.

The berries I pluck from the bushes
To crush gently on your full lips
Will match your feminine blushes,
From your face down to your hips.

When at last we are ablaze
With the red heat of our desire
We will make love for days and days
Until we finally quench the fire.

And, as our throbbing passion slows,
We’ll curl together and fall asleep,
Tending our love that it grows,
So moonlight promises we will keep.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I saw a man in rags today.
He was sitting on the curb.
I walked a little out of my way
Hoping I would not disturb.

But the old man looked up at me
With a yellow, gap-toothed grin,
And, holding a bottle up to see,
Asked me to join him in some sin.

Of course, I courteously declined,
Handing him a dollar bill.
He thanked me for being kind,
Insisting I join him still.

He whispered “I’ve got a tale to tell”
Giving me a wink.
“Don’t mind my look or how I smell.
You’ll get used to the stink.”

I don’t know why, but I sat down.
I felt somehow I knew him.
I drank from his bottle with a frown,
Then passed it quickly to him.

He began to tell about his life.
It sounded much like mine.
He’d had his share of woe and strife,
And he surely liked his wine.

His story was hardly different, though,
Than mine up to a point.
It was only when he reached forty or so
That it started to disjoint.

He lost his job and then his wife.
The drinking took its toll.
He slowly lost his zest for life,
Had no purpose, had no goal.

His children held him in great scorn,
For his weakness and his vice.
He cursed the day that he was born,
And relied on his bottle to suffice.

He warned me life could be that bad,
To watch where my road was leading.
I took another drink and thought it sad
To hear such self-pitying soul-bleeding.

I straightened my tie and stood to go.
He said “I’ll see you soon.”
I wondered how I could have stooped so low
As to drink with that silly old loon.

I had taken only a step or two
When I grew dizzy, my mind went blank.
There was nothing I could do.
Down to the pavement I sank.

The sun had set when I came to.
I was curled up in the gutter.
The empty bottle lay by my shoe,
Along with trash and clutter.

My mind raced, I should be home.
My wife would begin to worry.
Then my brain saw through the foam.
I had no need to hurry.

After all it was my usual dream.
It came every night, you see.
I saw in the empty bottle’s gleam
The crazy old loon was me.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I’ve forever lost my heart
To a woman I don’t know.
She passed me in the park
Several days ago.

Our eyes met and locked.
The universe held its breath.
My whole world was rocked.
I knew I’d love her until death.

She had a pretty face, I think,
But it was our eyes that spoke.
They moved our souls to spin in sync,
Wrapped in true love’s cloak.

In that brief moment I lived a life,
A life in all complete.
I was her man, she was my wife,
Although we’d yet to meet.

The instant passed and she was gone,
As if she’d never been there.
I raced around, but she’d moved on.
I cursed the gods in despair.

Now I wait for her to reappear,
Each day in this same spot.
To those around it must seem queer.
Yet, God help me, it’s all I’ve got.

I could perhaps grow old and die
Without ever knowing my love’s name.
I will not whine, I will not cry.
For into my life true love came.


By Carl Martin Johnson

That day will never leave me.
Such beauty in the storm.
Memory of time lost to grieve me,
Yet always leave me warm.

There was no shelter on the ferry
From the cold and drenching rain.
The harsh wind made me wary
The sharp drops caused me pain.

When a girl gave me a smile
And moved her umbrella to share.
It had been a while
Since a stranger showed such care.

She had an ordinary face,
Save for the kindness in her eyes,
And the gentle natural grace
That makes a soul seem wise.

I did not fall in love,
But she made me glow inside.
Like an angel I’d dreamed of
Had come to be my guide.

It was only a short time,
Then we parted at the pier.
I’ve still not heard love’s bells chime,
But I think I have come near.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Mild men walk all lands,
Bringing harmony to lives,
Making few demands,
Ensuring our kind thrives.

Quietly they move,
Knowing not their worth.
Yet all the gods approve
Their value to this earth.

To feed us they till the soil,
Their sweat water for the crops.
They build our cities with their toil.
Their effort for us never stops.

It is on the base they form we stand.
They have forged a sound foundation.
Without them there is no land
That can call itself a nation.

For them no statues raised,
No towers bear their name.
While dribbling celebrities are praised
In undeserved fame.

Mild men pass into the night,
Unheralded, unsung.
Though they are those who bear the fight,
Their death knell is rarely rung.

But it is they who face the foe,
Who take up arms to keep us free,
Who help the best of nations grow,
Protecting scribbling fools like me.




By Carl Martin Johnson


I put the bottle to my lips
To suck out bits of soul.
After so damn many sips,
It will never grow back whole.



By Carl Martin Johnson
I see life now far better
Than I could before the dark.
Soft shadows now unfetter
My mind’s creative spark.

Your love provides pure sight
When you translate what you see.
Though I am prisoner of night,
No man should pity me.

I would never trade my place
With a man whose eyes are whole.
With you I have been given grace
To see through a loving soul.


By Carl Martin Johnson
Is your smile a disguise
For a soul’s anguished cries?
Must you keep your suffering within?

Is the gleam in your eyes
Neither joy nor surprise,
But a heart’s burning shame at its sin?

Are your tears flowing free
To wash away what you see
While you wait for the fight to begin?

It will end soon, you know
When it is blood that will flow
And your death will start life again.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I dropped, exhausted, on the bank.
The boar I’d been chasing disappeared.
I lifted my canteen and drank.
My dogs were far gone, I feared.

I threw my shotgun to the side.
My frustration overcame me.
The great boar had hurt my pride.
I was angry, who could blame me?

He had run me through the brush,
Led my pack into the trees.
I had no energy left to push.
He had brought me to my knees.

I shoved aside my gun,
Lay back and closed my eyes.
The giant pig had won.
I would not have his head as prize.

From afar my hounds bayed.
They were scattered and lost.
I swore my vengeance would be paid,
No matter what the cost.

Then I heard splashing in the river,
An old yellow bitch who fell behind.
I went to see what help I could give her.
She was crippled and half blind.

She licked my hands when I grabbed her.
I saw blood seeping from a wounded side.
The big boar’s tusk had stabbed her.
It would not be long before she died.

To my rear came a deep grunting.
I knew the danger before I turned.
The beast I had been hunting
Held me with eyes that burned.

I could not reach my gun.
I had no weapon to defend.
I could chance a run,
But I knew it was the end.

Suddenly a streak of yellow fur!
My hound, crippled, almost dead.
Still had strong heart in her.
It was a brave dog’s blood she bled.

The screams from hound and boar
Sent fear through the halls of Hell.
I saw blood fly and a rain of gore,
As I dived where my gun fell.

I fired both slugs point blank.
The great pig sighed and dropped.
I knew my life had the hound to thank.
Hers for mine she had loyally swapped.

I knelt and stroked her muzzle.
No man from me had more respect.
Dog’s love for master a sweet puzzle,
God-given to serve and protect.

I looked into her amber eyes,
And watched as life’s light died.
Our souls touched, my dog and I,
And I could feel her pride.


By Carl Martin Johnson

What do I say to a dying friend,
A friend I cherish dearly?
Do I say this is not the end,
That she will soon see things more clearly?

I cannot speak wisely about death.
Until I die I cannot know it.
Before I take my own last breath,
All that I say will only show it.

Like most not faced with dying,
I can only guess the fear,
How every moment is spent trying
To keep Thanatos from coming near.

Should I say Death is only a door,
A door we all pass through,
That on the other side is more
Love and Beauty than we ever knew.

And if we go deep inside our mind,
Close our eyes and just float free,
Some of what awaits we’ll find,
A preview of what lies in Eternity.

Perhaps when we open our soul’s eye we’ll wonder
Why sweet Death had to wait so long,
Why this mortal life we struggle under
Kept us from the place where we truly belong.

Birth, indeed, was not our choice.
Yet we cannot refuse to die.
In these matters we have no voice,
No matter how we try.

Faith to some of us is gifted
Sent from God to blunt life’s pain.
By this, with Hope, our burden is lifted,
Until we see God’s Face again.

A fool like me can only give
Poor words scribbled in despair,
Along with love while she might live,
And my prayer for a passing fair.




By Carl Martin Johnson

I owe this life a debt
For things that I have done.
Life’s Judge will not forget,
And excuses I have none.

I have lived life hard and fast.
Made enemies fear my name.
My rough deeds have amassed
An unwanted fame.

Most vices I’ve embraced.
They know me as a friend.
I’ve been neither sober nor chaste.
Yet I tired of it all in the end.

It’s a bill I’ll have to pay.
The currency my last breath
It could be called in any day.
Wages for the life I’ve led is death.


Mild Men
Execution of A Mercenary Soldier
The Bottle
Sinful Heart
Eyes of a Blind Poet
The Smile
A Kiss by Moonlight
An Old Yellow Hound
I Saw A Ragged Man Today
To A Dying Friend
The Look
Wages of Sin
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