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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

Old Men
A Soldier's Prayer

By Carl Martin Johnson

God, I feel you ‘round me,
In the earth and air.
I am grateful that you found me.
Please accept a soldier’s prayer.

Make me compassionate, though brave.
Be saddened when I’m killing.
Try when I can to save
Though to fight hard be willing.

Let not my heart be cruel,
When protect my land I must.
But with courage my sword fuel,
When my cause is just.

And when Your angels take me,
With warrior’s honor may I die.
Lord, do not forsake me.
I am a soldier, and I try.


By Carl Martin Johnson

They found my Uncle Billy today.
He’d been dead for a long time.
Police said there was no foul play,
But his death was still a crime.

Letters and medals hung on his wall,
Attesting to his valor.
A Purple Heart above them all,
Saluting his lifeless pallor.

The bullet at last had found him,
Though it came from his own gun.
Chains of life no longer bound him.
Despair had finally won.

He was no more alone.
Not forgotten, like down here.
Warrior souls just like his own
Made loneliness disappear.


By Carl Martin Johnson

One more hill to take.
One more battle to be fought.
Primal fear will reawake.
No victory is cheaply bought.

Yet he’d move forward as before.
He had no cowardice in his heart.
He’d wade through the blood and gore.
He would more than do his part.

He was a warrior …..he would fight,
Though body and soul in pain.
If he made it through the night,
In the dawn he’d war again.

He turned his eyes up to the sky.
The stars would help him pray.
He knew he would not die.
It was Thanksgiving Day.


By Carl Martin Johnson

That man dying there
I only met tonight.
He is from the South somewhere.
Seems they always fight.

I’d crawl to him if I could.
Maybe stop his bleeding.
I’m also hit real good.
But I can’t block his pleading.

The look in his wet eyes,
I’ve seen a lot before.
Heard those weakening cries
Calling at Heaven’s Door.

I’ll try to make it to him.
I can’t stand to hear him moan.
I can’t say I knew him,
But I won’t let him die alone.




By Carl Martin Johnson

He held the letter tight.
It was spattered with his blood.
He had not survived the fight,
Now lay lifeless in the mud.

Yet a smile was on his face,
Warm, though it was frozen.
What thought did he embrace
When he became Death’s chosen?

I unpried the cold, clamped fingers.
Maybe the note would give a clue
To the memory that lingers,
That death could not undo.

Most of the writing was obscured.
Crimson covered and dried.
I prayed he had endured
To read the script inside.

“Dear Charlie”, it began
After that, much was hidden.
Then “I’ll see you when I can.
I don’t care if I’m forbidden.”

“My darling, don’t you die.
I will be here waiting.
Every day I will cry,
Until we’re celebrating.”

“I will count the days.
My love gets ever stronger.”
But the way this damn war plays,
She’ll have to wait much longer.



By Carl Martin Johnson

I saw that he was crying
As I aimed and fired.
I don’t think he minded dying.
I think he was too tired.

I had so many killed.
My soul was cold and hardened.
Its emptiness could not be filled.
I knew I’d not be pardoned.

My enemy looked into me,
He felt my longing for the grave.
It was as if he knew me,
And his murder he forgave.

He smiled, then jerked and fell.
For him the war was done.
I’d keep living in this hell.
It was he who’d really won.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Danger called me to her side
To tell me we would wed.
She was a willing bride,
But warned my blood she’d shed.

In return she would excite,
Give me thrills beyond compare,
If only I would fight
When called to that hard dare.

I am not her only spouse.
She has chosen others.
We all share honor’s house.
All of us are brothers.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Today’s been a long time coming.
One chance, then long time gone.
I hear the battle march drumming,
Bringing a wondrous dawn.

A grand thing will be done.
I feel the strength within.
A great victory will be won,
But this day will not come again.

I am ready for the test.
It will not find me shy.
This day will be my best,
Until the day I die.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I am only one.
But one can be enough,
If it’s a man who will not run,
And is made of the right stuff.




By Carl Martin Johnson

Soar up into the sky.
Leave the killing fields behind you.
Go where nothing makes you cry,
Where no bad memories can find you.

Where there is no more dying.
Where there is no more pain.
Where angels stop your crying
At the door of their domain.

Soldier go there now.
Your battle here is won
Your soul will show you how.
Close your eyes and it is done.



By Carl Martin Johnson

Look closely at my life, young man.
I was once like you.
Every race there was I ran.
Not a thing I wouldn’t do.

I had no fear of hurt or death.
Never shirked a fight.
I ate life with every breath,
Charged boldly into night.

But I met defeat at last,
By an enemy much stronger.
It was Time who ruled my youth had passed.
I was invincible no longer.



By Carl Martin Johnson

Great God, make me brave.
This day I fight for You.
If night finds me in my grave,
Let my valor have been true.

Your Son died for me,
Suffered more than I could bear.
Weak sinner that I be,
Tell Him today I did my share.



By Carl Martin Johnson

Old men dream warrior dreams,
Be they simple men or chief.
They have no time for schemes.
Their days left are too brief.

Every dawn they greet the sun
As an unexpected friend,
Another victory won
In their battle with the end.

One night they will keep sleeping,
Called to a warrior’s rest,
Held warmly in God’s keeping.
Old men’s final quest.




By Carl Martin Johnson

He looked over his shoulder
At my torn body in the dirt.
He saw my life-fire smolder.
Knew I’d not survive the hurt.

His bayonet had found me,
Plunged deep into my heart.
I was leaving the world around me.
That journey would soon start.

For an instant in his eye
I saw regret for what he’d done.
But we soldiers do not cry.
Our wars must be won.


By Carl Martin Johnson

“Make sure you look me up,” he yelled.
“After this goddamned war.”
I barely heard…we were being shelled
And his Med Evac was far.

But I threw him a big wave,
‘Cause Paco was the best.
Little bastard sure was brave,
Head an’ shoulders ‘bove the rest.

He had a goofy smile
When the bad guys hit us hard.
When I had to sleep a while,
It was Paco took my guard.

Now I stand before this wall.
We both came very far.
Buddy, I found you after all
After our goddamned war.


By Carl Martin Johnson

You can’t see under my cammo.
My skin’s a mystery.
I use the white man’s ammo,
But there are warriors black like me.

You know, we bleed red, too.
Like the rest in my platoon.
I get scared bad just like you,
‘Cause death might find me soon.

I don’t know if I’m brave,
But you won’t see me run.
There’s no color past the grave.
White and black are one.



By Carl Martin Johnson

Begone, Death….I defy you.
You have no hold on me.
For now I will deny you.
‘Til God’s angels set me free.


By Carl Martin Johnson

These are not tears running down my cheek.
I am sure it must be rain.
A sobbing man is shamefully weak,
No matter what the pain.

I am combat hardened,
Accustomed to much death.
My enemies go unpardoned.
I cut off their final breath.

But this battle is one too far.
Piles of dead and dying.
I am sick and tired of war.
It is my soul that is crying.

One day men will kill no more.
That is what I pray.
My bloody actions I abhor.
The scenes won’t go away.

Yet warrior is what I am.
I disdain to weep.
Rain, not tears, by damn.
Although my hurt is deep.



By Carl Martin Johnson

The songbird sang soft to me,
Heralding the dawn
Innocent to what would be.
The bloody mission I was on.

Had he known why I was there,
That my purpose was to kill,
His song, sung sweet and clear,
Would change to harsh and shrill.

I could not hear the enemy creep
Over the morn song of that bird.
And, when the bayonet cut deep,
It was the last sound that I heard.



By Carl Martin Johnson

Come, dear Night, surround me.
I am tired and I must sleep.
They who hunt me have not found me.
Pray my secret keep.




By Carl Martin Johnson

His new uniform was clean,
Except for all the blood.
His wounds not the worst I’ve seen,
Yet they killed him where he stood.

We laid him straight and cleaned his face
When the firing stopped.
I looked for his tags, but not a trace.
When we moved him guess they dropped.

His glazed eyes were open wide,
Disbelieving of his fate.
Amazed he’d so soon died.
Should have prayed, but now too late.

He was dropped in just that morning.
His luck was such a traitor.
Suddenly, and without warning,
The bad guys hit us seconds later.

I could not read his name.
Too much damage to his shirt.
I felt a sense of blame
That he lay nameless in the dirt.

So I memorized his features,
Made sure I’d not forget,
He’d been one of God’s best creatures.
Who’d paid his honor’s debt.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Did you see it, friend,
The horror in my eyes?
Did you know it was the end?
Did it take you by surprise?

I thought it would be me
Dead in that stinking mud.
It was my life I could see
Flying off for good.

Your bayonet grazed my ear.
Your spit sprayed my lips.
Then I pulled my knife to spear,
And you drank blood in bubbly sips.

I held you close and tight
While my blade released your sigh.
I’m sorry we had to fight.
I hate you had to die.

Soon one of you will kill me,
Leave me bleeding out and crying.
The horror in my eyes he’ll see
Will be the terror of my dying.



By Carl Martin Johnson

In the black night I lie here,
Listening to the sound
Of battle, seems close by here,
And I flinch at every round.

It will reach me soon.
In this one I might die.
I wish there was a moon
That I could tell goodbye.

I’ve been through this before,
But this night I’m near sure.
I feel my end in store.
My luck just can’t endure.

I wish I’d had a son
To carry on my name.
Tell the medals his dad won.
Brag about my fame.

I’ll pray I die well,
Hiding all my fear.
So my brothers cannot tell
My cowardice is near.

I try to think of happy things.
That only makes me sad.
If that’s what memory brings,
I wish mine was bad.

Once adrenalin gets flowing
I won’t think at all.
If I’m scared, it won’t be showing.
I’ll just fight until I fall.




By Carl Martin Johnson

Chase me if you dare!
Kill me if you can!
This warning I will share:
I'm no ordinary man!



Soldier Dying
Uncle Billy
After The War Is Over
One More Hill
Black Like Me
New Man Dying
Begone Death
Ambush Serenade
The Soldier's Letter
These Are Not Tears
I Saw The Enemy Crying
I Am Only One
The Horror In My Eyes
Long Time Coming
Danger Called
The New Man
Come, Dear Night
Look At My Life
Waiting For The Fighting
Make Me Brave
Chase Me If You Dare
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