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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

Life's Spice
The Lie

By Carl Martin Johnson

I could see your heart was breaking
When I told you love was through.
Although my own was aching,
I had to think of you.

This time I won’t return.
There is no chance at all.
Now my sole concern
Is that you not mourn me when I fall.

Our time has been too brief,
But at least I had your love.
I cannot inflict death’s grief
Upon a soul I am so unworthy of.

So I spoke the oath you heard,
To force our love to part.
The lie was in my words.
The truth was in my heart.


By Carl Martin Johnson

He lay unmoving, his eyes closed,
Arms spread to embrace the sun.
Flies buzzed loudly as he dozed,
And dreamed of what he’d done.

He had no desire to fully wake.
The conscious world could wait.
This was a break he had to take
Before he slipped back through the gate.

Pain knocked at the door,
Which he had securely locked.
But he could hide no more,
Could not keep reality blocked.

At first he saw blue skies,
Soft clouds floating light,
Until he turned his eyes
To the detritus of the fight.

It was quiet, save the moans
Of wounded and the dying,
Whose torn flesh and shattered bones
Left even heroes sighing.

At his side, close enough to kiss,
Was the last man he had killed.
Drowned, like him, in this abyss
Full of brave souls spilled.

He struggled to his feet,
A dozen holes oozing blood.
There was no one to greet.
He was the only one who stood.

His side had won the fight,
But he felt no pride.
He looked at the horrid sight,
Hung his torn head, and cried.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I’ve ridden past these graves before.
This time I think I’ll visit.
They ain’t from the side that I fought for,
But that ain’t a sin, now is it?

Their crosses are a lot like ours.
Like ours, their rows are even.
Same colors, mostly, in the flowers.
Same prayers for them agrievin’.

I might’ve faced some o’ these boys,
On one or ‘nuther bloody field,
Cussin’ at each other over the noise,
Cause neither one o’ us would yield.

Both sides thought that they was right.
Hell, they always do.
But ain’t no politicians in the fight.
It’s folks like me an’ you.

Looks like most o’ y’all buried here
When you died was younger’n me.
Bet your mommas shed many a tear
Out o’ pride and misery.

You there, Pete, was just a boy
When a bullet brought you down.
Reckon you had no son to bring you joy
‘Fore they put you in the ground.

Could o’ been me who laid you low.
Anyways, a reb like me.
Guess I’ll never really know
‘Til we shake hands in eternity.

I’ll have my own son one day.
Too bad you’ll never meet.
But if you reckon it’s okay,
I’m goin’ to name him Pete.

I’ll raise him well, least that’s my plan.
And, one day when he’s good,
I’ll tell him he’s named for a Yankee man
Who did the best he could.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I saw an angel fall today.
His wings were bent and torn.
I wondered how he’d gone astray,
As he lay there so forlorn.

I could not recall if angels died.
But around him all was so stilled
That I thought to run and hide
To keep myself from being killed.

With care I moved toward him,
Feeling I should render aid,
Or at least do my best to guard him
Until there was some rescue made.

Had he been fighting Lucifer’s legions
In another Holy War,
In otherworldly regions
Beyond the farthest star?

Was he hurt protecting me
From Satan’s vile intent?
Wounded to keep me free?
Letting his angel blood be spent?

The glowing figure slowly rose,
Shaking translucent wings,
Striking a warrior pose
Which, on Earth, would belong to kings.

He turned to look my way
With eyes of diamond blue.
With no words I heard him say:
“Yes, I fight for you.”

Then he faded like a mist
Back to the battlefields.
And I knew I would not exist
Save for the righteous sword he wields.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Blue eyes gazing sadly through the glass.
Confusion wrinkling his young face.
Behind him the giggling of his class
Sang chorus to his disgrace.

Outside the sun was bright
Where he’d been wrestling in the yard.
It had just been a little fight,
So the punishment seemed hard.

He was only a boy,
But boys are little men.
The whole world was his toy.
He would be in trouble again.

He will anger parents and teachers,
Have problems with the law,
Disregard advice from preachers.
He will always have this flaw.

He is a male of his kind.
There is violence in his soul..
But soon its use will be confined
To keeping his people whole

One day he will answer the call.
He’ll keep the enemy from the gate.
He may live or he may fall,
So do not treat him now with hate.

To protect he has been bred.
To keep his people free from chains.
And what bleeds now or is later bled
Is the blood of Vikings in his veins.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I am a hunter of dangerous prey.
I track in wildest hills.
I move at night and hide by day.
Who does not die is he who kills.

But I am quarry too.
What I stalk searches for me.
When the night is through,
One of us will not be.

I have seen my prey before.
Looked into his bloodred eyes.
So I am sure what is in store,
Should I not take him by surprise.

In truth, we are the same.
I have gazed into his heart.
We were born to play this game.
And we both know well our part.

We feed the same mad beast,
Crawling in our brain,
Who makes our soul his feast,
As he first did with Cain.

We live red in tooth and claw,
For on our skill Life’s future hangs.
Like the panther, we eat raw.
The only difference is our fangs.



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.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Life is flying by.
Each day I wake with less.
I’m not ready yet to die.
Life’s too good I must confess.

My lover is sweet danger.
War my concubine.
I have never been a stranger
To adrenaline’s strong wine.

I know my end awaits
On a battleground somewhere.
Then to Hell or Heaven’s gates
My fate will send me there.

But I will fight Death for my life.
I will not end ‘til I am through.
Quote Athena, my good wife:
“You eat Life, or Life eats you.”


By Carl Martin Johnson

Rows and rows of crosses,
A Star of David here and there.
Stark reminder of the losses
Countless families had to bear.

The old man saluted as the flag rose.
Many of these were men he’d known.
He envied their fraternal repose.
They were not, like him, alone.

He turned to walk away,
Looking up, but thoughts inside.
He had no words to say
How these dead filled him with pride.

The time would not be long
Before he felt their warm greeting.
Together they had been strong,
And he looked forward to the meeting.

Today was a promise kept
To these friends under dirt and clover.
He heard each voice as he wept:
“Look me up when the war is over.”


By Carl Martin Johnson

I am Mangas Coloradas.
I take my tribe to war.
Or we will be “vidas enterradas”,
Killed like dogs for what we are.

I am Chiricahua Apache chief.
I have led my people far.
Our lives are hard and brief.
Yet we are proud of who we are.

Now the Mexicans chase us.
They take our scalps for pay.
We fight them when they face us.
To our children war is play.

Our lands are harsh, but home.
Our gods live in the hills.
The plain was made for us to roam.,
To hunt well and share our kills.

Last night a vision found me.
Showed me what would come.
The white man would surround me.
He would beat the soldier drum.

They would take me and kill me.
They would boil my head to bone.
The llano sand would fill me.
My wives and children would be alone.

But this day my warriors fight,
Though our lives will not be long.
We hold fast to day ‘til it be night.
Then I, Red Sleeves, sing my death song.


By Carl Martin Johnson

He sat and watched the sunset
Spilling crimson across the lawn.
He liked the day’s ending,
Even more than the new sun’s dawn.

This sundown there were clouds,
From golden white to bloody red.
Many shapes painted with the colors.
For a young imagination to be fed.

He dreamed of white horses
Charging over the ridge’s crest,
Silver sword in his right hand
Golden armor on this chest.

His legions rode behind him
Like archangels from Heaven.
Quite a vivid evening daydream
For a boy of eleven.

Like a movie in his head
He could see his warriors fight.
Their plumed helmets by the thousands.
Sharpened speartips shining bright.

He called out to his troops
In a strange, foreign tongue.
As in a mirror, he saw his face,
He was a grown man, but still young.

The boy-man cut through the enemy hordes
At the head of his brave men.
They were courageous, they were strong.
He knew that they would win.

The soldiers shouted his name
Together and again.
In his mind now he knew
Who it was he had been.

But when his mother called, he obeyed.
Though in his past life he could command her.
For he had once ruled the world.
When his name was Alexander.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I saw the bullet twist you
Throw you through the air.
Like Thanatos had kissed you
And pushed you toward his lair.

First I killed the death-bringer,
Then watched in anguished trance,
Screaming loud, your requiem singer,
As you pirouetted in macabre dance.

I fell, cradling your head,
Horror’s fingers clenched ‘round my heart.
I knew too well you’d quick be dead,
Young life cut down before full start.

Then you lay so very still,
Pain draining slowly from your eyes.
You sang a low death chant until
You slipped this life for Odin’s skies.

Now I have lost you friend,
You were a warrior soul, like me.
Hold a place for my near end.
I’ll soon keep you company.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Let the fight begin!
Let the wars come now!
We are mighty! We can win!
We will conquer! This I vow!

Let us not in shame leave it
For our children to endure.
We’ve let evil spread and must retrieve it,
For the disease provide the cure.

Has life become so dear,
Our blood such precious wine?
Are we so wrought with fear
That we all honor will resign?

While my arm can the sword wield
Let me march in the phalanx.
Let the sun burst on my shield
As I surge forward through the ranks.

Let us go on the assault,
Strike those who threaten in our fury.
What care we if some find fault?
Our children are our jury.


By Carl Martin Johnson

When I sleep I’m in a new world
One I’ve painted in my dreams
On the canvas I have unfurled
My own rainbows and moonbeams.

I escape this world of strife.
I rest my weary heart.
I have a different life,
Where no evil plays a part.

In my dream realm I am king.
I am merciful and kind.
Only happiness I bring
To everyone I find.

When I wake I am at war.
I am bloody, filled with hate.
My kind are what we are.
The gods leave us to our fate.

I pray one sweet night near,
When my eyes close and I sleep,
I will embrace my dreamland dear,
And there my soul will keep.


By Carl Martin Johnson

There was blood in the river
As it washed o’er my soul.
My wounds bathed in the current
Yet I would never be whole.

And I drank in the stream
No regard for the gore.
But my thirst was unquenched.
It would be slaked no more.

I turned to the killing ground
Where my enemies lay
And my soul groaned in agony
While I tried hard to pray.

My spirit was corrupted.
My innocence fled.
There would be no redemption.
What had lived once was dead.

So I returned to the battle.
To the pain and the screams.
From now and all forward
Hell owned my dreams.


The Veteran
The Victor
Mangas Coloradas
Stopping At The Enemy's Grave
The Dreamer
Angel Falling
To A Dying Comrade
Blood of Vikings
Fight now!
A Soldier's Dream
Wages Of Sin
Blood In The River
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