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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

The Smile

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 saw you crawling for me,
Though my eyes were filled with blood.
You would fight right through an army
To save me dying in the mud.

Your arms around my chest
As you pulled me from harm’s way,
Made me feel that I was blessed
To have you with me this hard day.

For a while your caring halted
All the terror and the pain.
My spirit was exalted.
I would live to fight again.

And, in spite of Fate’s decision
To bring me to an end,
I could never at all envision
A more faithful, loving friend.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I am become Death,
Messenger of Ending.
I will take your last breath,
And the Life you are defending.

I will find you and kill.
Nothing holds me back.
I have no conscience or will.
What was human now I lack.

I once viewed life as holy,
A gift from the Divine.
Today I see it solely
To be used for my design.

No mercy will I show,
Be you innocent or young.
When I strike my heavy blow,
Hordes of Requiem bells are rung.

I say I am fighting for a cause,
But in truth it matters not.
I strike at random, without pause,
My bloodlust running hot.

I pass among you unmolested.
I walk freely where I like.
My discipline well-tested,
Waiting for my chance to strike.

Your weakness makes me strong.
Your naïve tolerance feeds me.
My right is your wrong.
Your leaders’ spineless action breeds me.

I am become Death.
It is your house I damn.
Until you find brave breath
To call me who I am.


By Carl Martin Johnson

The warrior limped back blooded.
Alive, but trampled hard.
His mind and heart were flooded
With the dead he’d tried to guard.

What needed doing he had done.
Evil men he had defeated.
But the victory was hard won.
Many friends grim death had greeted.

Now he had returned,
Alive to fight again one day,
When his heart once more burned
To send villains on their way.

Until then he would rest,
Thanking God that he fought well,
Knowing he had done his best
Against the damned cohorts of Hell.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Be bold if you would live truly,
Rather than hiding, timid, in life’s crowd.
Do not bend your knee unduly.
Let your head remain unbowed.

Walk bravely into danger.
If you die, die like a man.
To cowardice be a stranger.
Never let it be said: “He ran.”

Be at the forefront, not the rear.
Lead others in the fight.
Hold honor, not safety, dear.
Stand fast for what is right.

Each morning face the sun.
As your friend and equal greet it.
Ask what great deeds need be done.
Any challenge, say you’ll meet it.

Let mankind praise your worth.
To daring feats let there be no bars.
The meek may inherit the earth,
But to the bold belong the stars.


By Carl Martin Johnson

The Texan rode a spotted horse.
He sat the saddle tall and high.
You could sense a strong but gentle force
As the horseman passed you by.

He cantered into my hometown
When I was just a boy.
I watched him rein in and climb down,
And smile with eyes that held no joy.

Silver dressed his saddle.
Silver rimmed his spurs.
They made a kind of rattle,
Like a cougar when it purrs.

Dust covered the black hat he wore,
From days out on the trail.
It shaded the long scar he bore
Down his face like lightning pale.

On his hip rode a holster filled with steel,
Looking used hard, but well-tended.
The sight of it made me feel
That with it many lives had ended.

Through a café window I watched him sit
At a table all alone
Looking out so his vision would permit
All those approaching to be shown.

He drank coffee from his cup,
Eyes fixed on a locket in his hand.
I never saw him once look up.
It was hard to understand.

For an hour he was still,
Like a statue carved from rock.
I stood and watched until
I saw a new hour on the clock.

By then my interest had declined.
But, as I turned to go,
I heard riders from behind.
From their gallop, I watched them slow.

Four men on mounts run hard
Jumped down and tied their reins.
They looked grim and on their guard,
Like cold blood ran in their veins.

The Texan raised his head
To see the men outside.
His eyes went hard and dead,
Then his left hand opened wide.

I saw the locket in his palm,
Silver like his spurs.
He looked at it, long and calm,
Then I saw something in him stir.

One rider checked the spotted mare,
And nodded to the others.
They pulled their guns with care,
Four death-dealing brothers.

The Texan cleared the doorway,
Six-gun roaring as he moved.
He was fast and good at gunplay,
That his sure, quick killing proved.

Two riders dropped into the dirt.
The others firing, but dropped back.
The Texan was hit and hurt,
But he stood and reloaded for attack.

More lead flew, flesh ripped and tore.
Gunsmoke fogged my view.
All three reloaded and fired some more.
One fell, now just stood two.

The Texan bled from many holes.
The rider bled from more.
Both their guns had taken tolls.
Both men poised on eternity’s shore.

Then the rider’s gun clicked hollow.
His face froze and he knew.
He tried, but could not swallow.
His living time was through.

The Texan’s blood was spilling.
He was weak, but standing ground.
He was not yet done with killing.
He raised his arm and fired the round.

The last rider jerked and fell,
Soul flying to Satan’s care.
He joined his brothers down in Hell.
But the Texan could not call the debt owed square.

What he had lost was gone forever.
Dreams buried in the dirt.
The Texan knew he’d never
Recover from the hurt.

He dragged onto his saddle,
Left hand trying for his pocket.
In the pain of throwing his leg astraddle,
He did not see he’d dropped the locket.

I was scared, but I ran over.
I took the locket and raised it high.
There was a Star of Texas on the cover,
Inside why the riders had to die.

The Texan looked me in the eyes.
I now understood his taking life.
He rode away with the locket that held his prize,
The portrait of his child and wife.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I will not move. You might fly away.
Little friend, resting softly on my skin.
I feel safe only so long as you stay.

When they charge again I know you will leave,
Fleeing the battle you know I can’t win.
You will miss me I hope, perhaps you will grieve.

I have no one else. No love left back home.
And here only you to watch my dying begin.
To see crimson blood spurt, flow and foam.

For now we share life, so precious to me.
But we all owe a death, to repay Adam’s sin.
You may last beyond now, but I will not be.

Will you guide me high when it is all done?
To the place of rebirth, where I’ll start again.
To the Soul that awaits me, far back of the Sun.


By Carl Martin Johnson

No one knocked on her door
To let her know he had died.
No one saw her on the floor,
Where she had collapsed and cried.

She heard the news along the street.
At first she would not believe.
Not now, when life was so complete.
This was no time to grieve.

His parents did not know her,
Or that it was his child she carried.
When he returned he planned to show her,
And say they would be married.

Life dealt a lousy hand.
He would not see his son.
Fate was not theirs to command,
But she would do what must be done.

The boy would have his name.
He would know his father’s story.
He would share his father’s fame,
Tell his own son of his glory.

The hero’s flag over the casket
Would not be hers beside the grave,
But if she felt fear, she would mask it,
And show him she too could be brave.


By Carl Martin Johnson

She reached up for a kiss.
He bent down to her embrace.
That boyish look she would so miss,
The shining smile that lit his face.

His uniform was clean and pressed,
HIs cheeks smooth from his shave.
A mother never felt so blessed.
For his sake, she would be brave.

Yesterday he was a child,
Running out the door to play.
A good boy, a little wild,
But he was a man this day.

War would have him soon,
With its horror, blood and pain.
Brothers’ screams would play a tune,
Burned forever into his brain.

She would pray for his return
Every second, every minute.
She knew she could not learn
To live a life without him in it.

He waved just once as he left,
As years ago his father’d done,
Before he was lost to war’s bloody theft.
“Please, God! Don’t take my son!”



By Carl Martin Johnson

I visited their graves today,
But that’s not where they are.
They are standing vigil far away,
On the fields where they fought their war.

They have leave from Michael’s Legion,
Where warriors are acclaimed,
To depart the celestial region
For the place their soul was claimed.

They gather with their brothers,
Recalling earthly deeds,
These sons of proud-sad mothers,
These best of all our breeds.

They would fight for us forever.
It is our freedom warriors win.
Never abandoning that endeavor,
They would give their lives again.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Look for me in the sunset.
You will find me if you try.
The sun is where our hearts met.
It’s where we’ll say goodbye.

I do not want to leave you,
But my time on earth is through.
For a while it may grieve you
Until we meet anew.

If I could run to you, I would.
But my honor will not let me.
I will not be gone for good,
So long as you do not forget me.

My death will not end us.
You will feel me at your side.
All the angels will befriend us.
Our love will give them pride.

I must do my duty,
Must face what must be done.
I will think of your sweet beauty.
While this battle will be won.

Though I will miss your tender touch,
And it has been said before:
“I could not love thee, dear, so much,
Loved I not honor more.”

So see me in the setting sun.
Our love burned in its fire.
And know that you are the only one
That ever could my heart desire.


By Carl Martin Johnson

As a boy I walked this country road,
It’s red clay powder dry.
Just to the east a small stream flowed,
But that was days gone by.

This time of year, in early Spring,
Small flower buds dot the trees.
Red and blue birds are on the wing.
Early clover calls the bees.

There are thin, high clouds when I raise my gaze,
The sky still a pale winter blue.
In a month the fields will be ablaze
With blooms of every hue.

In the white house back there, my parents live.
They’ll be sad they missed me.
I know there is much that they would give
To have simply hugged and kissed me.

But, anyway, I’ll see them soon.
All the family will be there.
Not one of us is born immune.
We all must pay the fare

Just today the shells left me dead and shattered.
I raged at such a cheat.
Then I saw that length was not what mattered
A short life can be complete.

It is not so bad to be set free,
Only frightening for a second.
The passing only worried me
Until I saw the One who beckoned.

And if you ask him as a friend
To stop for a visit along the way,
He will, as for me, an angel lend,
Because once in Heaven you’ll want to stay.


By Carl Martin Johnson

If you bring guns across the river,
You’re going to visit a jail.
Mexico is no great forgiver,
And it’s damned hard to make bail.

But you can’t fight guns with knives.
Too many good people will die.
Our side lost too many lives.
Still, we gave it a try.

Bloodied, I made my retreat.
The Rio Bravo my destination,
Doing my best to avoid a meet
With the police of this violent nation.

I ran hard but they caught me
Just south of the puebla Cheran.
The same damned federales who fought me.
Now for sure I’m a dead man.

They gave me my own private cell.
I wouldn’t last a minute with the rest.
I don’t believe I’ll have long in this hell.
They’ll soon put my sad soul to rest.

I’ll be sacrificed to the gods of the Aztec.
I’ll be dead, but at least I’ll be free.
The sentence a sharp sword to the white neck
Of gringo guerreros like me.


By Carl Martin Johnson

The sights lined up, the target clear,
Trigger finger squeezing slow,
Until a single, shiny tear
Rolled down to the dust below.

He thought about the man ahead,
The man he meant to kill.
Still living, but in a moment dead.
And his soul went cold and still.

If he fired the round a life would end
A mother lose her son,
A wife her love, a man his friend.
It could not be undone.

His cause was just, he came to fight.
He’d killed many on his way.
And though he knew his war was right,
He would not kill today.


Her Baby's Father
Death Bringer
A Warrior Mother's Farewell To Her Son
Return Of The Warrior
Fallen Warriors
Look For Me In The Sunset
The Searcher
Passing By On My Way
Gringo Guerrero
The Tear
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