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

 
 

SACRIFICE
By Carl Martin Johnson

In a moment I’ll feel bullets bite.
I’ll feel pain and then I’ll die.
This will be my final fight.
I’ll be dead, but I’ll know why.

I am frightened, but I won’t run.
I will face what destiny holds.
I will brave the enemy’s gun,
Do my part in what unfolds.

My fight will be to win,
No matter the price I pay.
My country and my kin
Rely on me today.

So remember me tomorrow,
That I have chosen what I do.
It is my honor, not my sorrow,
That I give my life for you.


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NOT ALONE
by Carl Johnson

Bullets snapped past his ear.
The retreat was becoming a rout.
He had to control his fear,
If any hope of getting out.

The soldier dived into the trees.
He was last man from the clearing.
He scrambled quickly to his knees.
The enemy was fast nearing.

The extraction had begun.
The choppers hovered and ropes dropped.
His fellows winched up one by one.
He would miss it if he stopped.

An explosion boomed behind him.
He saw a man tossed and fall.
His eyes searched, but could not find him.
The wild grass was too thick and tall.

“Don’t leave me!” he heard screamed.
Damn! They might forget him in the scramble.
Yet, could he ever be redeemed
If he did not take the gamble?

He watched the last chopper rise,
And with it his last chance.
With a last look at the skies
He charged into the dance.

He dropped beside his friend,
Who smiled gratefully and said,
“LT, is this the end?
Are we ‘bout to end up dead?”

The enemy was swarming.
They would soon be overrun.
It was too late for reforming.
This life would soon be done.

The wounded man grabbed for him,
And looked him in the eye.
Pulled him down to implore him,
“Tell me honest. Will I die?”

He held the boy while he fired,
Putting one arm down to hold him.
He was ready, he was tired,
But his voice was steady as he told him.

“You will die, my brother.
Death’s spear’s already thrown.
Your fate can be no other.
But you will not die alone!”


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GUNFIGHTER
By Carl Martin Johnson

He rode weary in the saddle.
His head low from the heat and age.
He could hear his old bones rattle,
As he passed tiredly through the sage.

A red sun was burning low.
He would stop and make camp soon.
These days he took things slow.
He’d been on his horse since noon.

He’d lost the hunters, so he had no hurry,
No place he had to be.
There was no one waiting who would worry.
No one he had to see.

The rest of his kind were long gone,
Dead or disappeared.
And he had to keep moving on,
As those who hunted him neared.

He would fight if they caught him,
Though he wouldn’t mind much if they won.
There were many men who sought him.
Odds were soon he would be done.

His gun had cut down many men
On both sides of the law.
He was a good bit younger then,
And quicker on the draw.

Soon he would have to pay the price
To those who chased him, and the Devil.
He was the one who rolled the dice.
Now the stakes must be made level.

He would have no one to dig his grave
Out here on this windy plain.
Vultures and coyotes would not spare
A single bone of his remains.

He squinted against the sun behind.
They were there who brought his death.
He’d been easier than he’d hoped to find,
He knew he was close to his last breath.

If done again, would he live the same?
He had regrets, as a dying man does.
Then he smiled and thought of his brief fame,
And laughed at who he was.

He turned his mount to face the pack,
Pulled his gun and fired a shot.
He knew there was no looking back.
He’d lived, now he’d die. Why not!?

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REVOLUTION
By Carl Martin Johnson

The Revolution stalks in the dark,
Waiting for her name to be called.
She circles her prey like a shark
Longing to leave tyranny mauled.

Her cat’s eyes glow a deep scarlet
With the blood she sees must be shed.
Panting hard, like Vengeance’s own harlot,
Hot with foretaste of the dead.

The tyrants who today feel immortal,
Trampling our people into the dust
Are nearing Eternity’s portal.
Where God will decide what is just.

The Revolution melds one Soul from legions,
And we await our call in the night
Summoned from all oppressed regions,
We are ready! Now we will fight!

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THE LAST GOODBYE
By Carl Martin Johnson

It was the last time she would see him.
She knew that in her heart.
There was no way for her to free him
From the fate that was his part.

This was not his first campaign.
He’d been a warrior all his life.
Nor could she complain.
She was a warrior’s wife.

Life without him would be hard.
She held him very dear.
But she could not let down her guard.
She could not show him her fear.

They looked long into each other,
Yet they did not embrace,
To touch would be to smother
The glow each saw on the other’s face.

He turned and walked away.
Neither said a word.
They spoke all there was to say,
Though not a sound was heard.

She watched him vanish from her life.
Step by step, away he faded.
The world with all its strife,
She would bear now unaided.

Her sorrow fused with pride.
She could not change Life’s plan,
But she would be grateful ‘til she died
She’d had a worthy man.

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I, QUIXOTE
By Carl Martin Johnson

They think I am a madman.
Let them. I am sane.
They admit I’m not a bad man,
Though they feel I’ve half a brain.

With little Sancho, I ride out,
Attacking windmills, so they say.
As for me, I have no doubt
I’ve slain dragons in my day.

True, my helmet is a steel pot,
My lance a blunted staff.
Yet, a clown I really am not,
In spite of how they laugh.

If they could see inside,
They would find a different man,
One whose valor he must hide
To thwart the Devil’s plan.

So, I will weather their derision.
It is for them I risk my all.
I must keep my strength from demons’ vision
To await the Battle Call.

And the world will praise my name
When those who sneer are under ground.
Don Quixote of great fame,
‘Twas a better world with him around.

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THE CATWALK
By Carl Martin Johnson

I stand one side, you on the other.
If we meet in the middle
Will we be enemy or brother?
Can we solve the riddle?

I am looking at the sunrise.
Your eyes see it set.
Neither one of us is all-wise.
Perhaps it’s time we met.

On this catwalk our views might blend.
We may see far ahead.
If not, we both may end,
And our visions be those of the dead.

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PALADIN
By Carl Martin Johnson

I found the Kingdom wanting,
In need of men like me.
There were dangers, many daunting.
An entire people to set free.

So I searched for a liege,
Someone to lend my sword,
To help break Evil’s siege.
A fine and worthy lord.

But the royalty was weak,
Not deserving of my blade.
Not the patron I would seek,
Nor would I follow if he bade.

Yet the people were deserving,
Their hearts strong, and characters pure.
My desire to help remained unswerving.
I saw transgressions I could cure.

To fight they were full willing
If only a man would lead them.
They feared neither death nor killing.
For their own redemption I would need them.

Many of them came
To fight the tyrant and the beast.
They kindled freedom’s flame
From the strongest to the least.

We swept over the land,
Driving all who harm before us.
There were hordes in my command.
Even Satan could not ignore us.

We threw the oppressors out,
Quenched the Dragon’s fire,
Put all enemies to rout,
Taught them to fear our ire.

Now no king sits on the throne.
We all share the crown.
No one man alone
Can fit the royal gown.

The victory was not mine.
It belongs to all who fought.
They made a nation fine,
That with heroes blood was bought.

And they learned that we Paladin
Are not as strong as they.
It is good and simple men
Who will guide Life the right way.


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SCARS
By Carl Martin Johnson

Beneath the paint was a youthful face,
Until you looked into his eyes.
His gaze reached out far into space,
Like a man just before he dies.

He walked point for the patrol,
The three others, flanked and rear,
Looked to him for ops control,
Should the enemy appear.

If he had fear, it did not show.
He never charged, but never ran.
He’d seen more death than a man should know
In a his life’s twenty-one year span.

The rifle he carried was scratched but oiled.
It was his loyal and best friend.
The tiger stripes he wore were soiled,
But they would last ‘til mission’s end.

He cut off the trail, knelt in the grass,
Held up his fist for halt.
He saw an enemy unit that would pass.
He would ambush and call air assault.

In silence, he signaled the others to spread.
They lay prone and checked their guns.
Within minutes there would be dead,
And they did not want to be the ones.

He called in Fire Mission Delay.
He would begin the fire when right.
With his headband he wiped the sweat away,
And nerved himself for the fight.

His eyes closed for an instant, no more.
He allowed a sweet brief dream.
Pictures of his life held in memory’s store.
Should this day be the end of his life’s stream.

Seconds from now he would kill again.
Perhaps he would die too.
Seemed this was how life had always been.
Was it all he would ever do?

His fingers felt the scar across his chest.
He was lucky, he knew, to be whole.
His body’s wounds healed with time and rest.
But the scars ran too deep on his soul.


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THE SHOOTIST
By Carl Martin Johnson

He had always pushed luck hard.
Now it had run out.
He’d soon be in some graveyard
No one knew or cared about.

He would finish where he’d started,
In a town with streets of dirt,
His estate when he departed
Would be a six-gun and spare shirt.

The pain was getting stronger.
Most nights he could not sleep.
It could not be borne much longer.
It was reaching far too deep.

In his day he had known fame.
Saloons kept his favorite whiskey.
There’d been many towns to tame.
Life had been good, but risky.

Young ladies sent him smiles.
He was a hero to young men.
People would travel miles
To see his duels way back then.

But he’d had no time to marry.
He had no children or a wife.
Only barroom whores could carry
The burden of his kind of life.

Death would find him lonely,
Lying in a pauper’s bed.
Unless he took the only
Proper end for the life he’d led.

There were out there still a few
Who would like to claim his hair.
So he challenged those he knew
To come and face him there.

And down the red clay street he saw,
Bordered by crowds on either side,
Forty paces more until the draw,
‘Til people saw how a real man died.

He drew but did not fire,
Stood and waited for the lead to bite
Aimed his Colt pistol higher
To show Death a warrior’s spite.

Those who killed him were forgotten,
But the shootist’s legend lives.
What he sought, he had gotten.
He died grateful for what life gives.


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MAN OF VIOLENCE
By Carl Martin Johnson

I am a man of violence,
But not a violent man.
I attack those who would harm you,
So their blood is not on your hand.

I police your streets and watch your homes.
Wars against your enemies I fight,
So the rest of my beloved countrymen
May sleep secure at night.

At times you hail my courage.
You say my actions make you proud.
Yet, deep inside I give you thoughts
You will not say out loud.

Very few of us are called to kill
To save what they hold dear.
So, I know beneath your praise
Lies an undertone of fear.

To be a warrior is natural to some,
Those who are born for combat.
We do not condemn those who are not.
Still, we are different, we know that.

When we seem to think away from most,
Please try not to despise.
You see things one way, but we are seeing
Life through a warrior’s eyes.

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THE ARENA
By Carl Martin Johnson

My right eye still has sight,
Though blood makes vision poor.
It has been a gallant fight,
If difficult to endure.

My opponent fought with grace.
But another day I might have won.
Still, as the last man I will face,
My honor’s glad he’s a valiant one.

That first blow that I gave him
Took his helmet and his ear.
Would have been no way to save him
Had he parried less well with his spear.

We went round and round forever,
Each gash caused the crowd to roar.
I grew too tired to fight clever.
We both weakened more and more.

It was hard this final minute,
Sword on sword, and sword on shield.
It looked like neither of us would win it.
I knew neither of us would yield.

His quick thrust took my left eye.
I came to death’s door very near.
The wound drew out of me a pained cry,
More of anger than of fear.

I fought hard, but I was draining,
Of energy as well as blood.
Every muscle in me straining
To keep from dying in this mud.

I’m on my knees and I look up.
His smile is farewell, not cruel.
He knows he’ll drink from this same cup
In some not-too-distant duel.

He is granting a moment’s grace
So I may ask the gods to greet me.
I recall my dead wife’s face.
It is she I ask to meet me.

Down flashes the warrior’s knife.
I am taking my last breath.
I have lived a gladiator’s life,
Now I die a gladiator’s death.

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