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 ENEMY WITHIN
By Carl Martin Johnson

We have allowed the fruit to rot,
Decaying sourly on the tree.
The Fathers would say this is not
What they meant by being free.

We elect fools to rule us
Because of promises they make.
Time after time they fool us.
They do not give, but only take.

The true culprit is our greed,
Love of self before our nation.
Which is no longer fit to lead
The world from its damnation.

Where have we put our pride?
Principles and self-esteem?
Have they run off to hide
With our forefathers‘ dream.

Are we too lazy to cast a vote?
To timid to keep foulness out?
Then we are singing a false note
When it is government we doubt.

We must protect what we hold dear,
Guard our sacred trust,
Know the enemy we must fear.
That enemy is us.

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CHALLENGE TO THE MINOR GODS
By Carl Martin Johnson

Tremble, all ye lesser gods!
Look upon my might!
You I defy, despite the odds
To come and feel my bite.

You have thrown ill fate at me.
I have borne it for too long.
But those travails have, you’ll see,
Only served to make me strong.

My soul with rage is bursting.
I have cast off your chains.
I cannot stop this thirsting
To spill the venom in your veins.

“Devils” some men name you,
But you are evil gods to me.
And it is I the one who’ll shame you.
It is I who’ll bend your knee.

Take up the gauntlet that I throw.
After all, I’m only Man.
Then at last we both will know
Who’s the stronger in God’s plan.

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THE CASTLE
By Carl Martin Johnson

His horse had died that day.
His lance had long been broken.
He had tried hard to pray,
But not a word was spoken.

He would not forsake his pledge,
Though he was bruised and scarred.
His sword still had a cutting edge.
His will was still rock hard.

Dented armor he’d cast aside.
The shield he yet wielded.
Without it he would have died.
For he had never yielded.

Rising above him, perched on high.
Was the castle of his quest.
He would enter or he would die.
He could not fail this test.

Its turrets watched over the truth,
Held safe within fortress walls,
That he had sought from early youth,
With many stumbles, many falls.

It was now within his reach.
One great final leap.
A wall of terror he must breach,
Then truth, and peaceful sleep.

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SEE THEM IN MY EYES
By Carl Martin Johnson

Look into my eyes,
See the dead march by.
Was I brought their demise,
I caused each one to die.

They make a playground of my mind.
My memory they own.
I never know what scenes I’ll find.
They decide what I’ll be shown.

I see my bullets tear
Past their rifles and their knives.
Ripping flesh beyond repair,
Slicing short their youthful lives.

Now I am their friend.
They seldom leave my side
We all reach the same end.
There is nowhere we can hide.

They say they do not hate me,
For I have set them free,
Their camaraderie awaits me
In warriors‘ graves for eternity.

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PICTURES
By Carl Martin Johnson

Their small house was a love-filled place.
It kept them dry and warm.
The smile that lit his cute wife’s face
Melted him with its charm.

He looked outside and saw his son
Playing with their pup.
Both their lives had just begun.
It would be fun watching them grow up.

Kitchen smells of pie and roast
Filtered out and made him grin.
He didn’t know what he loved most,
Her peach pie or her soft skin.

An explosion broke into his dream.
The enemy charging again.
He heard his wounded comrades scream.
His own luck was wearing thin.

His fantasy returned for a last kiss,
Taste of a life he would not see.
Instead, reality for him was this.
Knocking on the door of eternity.

But, as the bullets cut him through,
He leapt back to his dreaming place.
And the last thoughts that the soldier knew
Brought a smile to his dying face.

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THE GIFT
By Carl Martin Johnson

I gave my enemy life tonight.
I just could kill no more.
I had him lined up in my sight,
Could’ve shoved him through Death’s door.

I know I should have been strong.
He would have killed me if he could.
To let him live was wrong.
He would have understood.

His face was grim and thin.
Life likely had been hard.
But this night he would win.
Must’ve had an angel standing guard.

No wife would cry because of me,
No grieving children’s tears
This lucky man would go free,
Perhaps to live many years.

In my memory I marked him well.
I wished for him the best.
On this killing ground of our war’s hell,
We had both been blessed.

He would not know, this side of Death,
How our lives’ paths had crossed.
How close he’d been to his last breath,
To finding his future lost.

I never truly grasped the reason
I granted his reprieve.
Maybe it was only the season.
That night was Christmas Eve.

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THE FENCE
By Carl Martin Johnson

The soldiers came this morning
To build for me a fence.
They showed up without warning
But I said they could commence.

The enemy had been seen.
I knew there was some danger.
I heard the enemy was mean,
So I was wary of any stranger.

As I watched the troops working,
I felt more and more secure.
If the enemy was lurking,
My new fence would endure.

The fence grew higher by the hour.
I felt more confidence.
I was getting a sense of power
From my strong and sturdy fence.

Razor wire was strung on top
To keep the enemy at bay.
It would cut his hands and make him drop,
And send him on his way.

The gate was made of sturdy steel,
With an impregnable lock,
So that it formed a reliable seal
To withstand the greatest shock.

I asked the soldiers for a key.
They said I would not need one.
They would open when need be,
And close when the need was done.

Since they stood guard they took my gun.
They would protect me now.
They would prevent harm from anyone,
And they would best judge how.

Now my fence is complete.
I should be content.
I know it will surely defeat
The enemy’s intent.

Yet sometimes at night I doubt,
When I lie safely in my pen,
My fence is to keep the enemy out.
I fear it might be to keep me in.

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A WARRIOR’S DEATH
By Carl Martin Johnson

Is it honor that I crave,
That pulls me to the fight?
Or am I driven toward the grave
By adrenaline’s addictive bite?

I hate the smell of blood,
The screams of painful death,
The bombing’s constant thud,
Taste of napalm with every breath.

More than woman it enslaves me,
Holds my heart in martial charm.
Like a lustful girl’s love craves me,
Though she seeks to do me harm.

I will die in heated battle,
In some desert far away,
Listening to my own death rattle,
While I try in vain to pray.

Should I fight in honor’s name that day,
And I’ve kept a soldier’s trust,
The price is one I’ll gladly pay,
If for a warrior’s death I must.

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THE RAINBOW
By Carl Martin Johnson

Flash chased flash.
Like demons bursting from hell.
Booming crash echoed crash
Like bombs as they fell.

He woke covered with sweat,
Eyes wide with fear.
Had the terror, the threat,
Followed him here?

He lay stiff in his bed,
Waiting hard for the dawn.
Heart filled with dread,
As the storm thundered on.

But the sun fought in vain
To give birth to the day,
While he lay in his pain
Looking out at the gray.

Forever, it seemed,
The tempest whirled on.
And the horrors he dreamed
Could not be made gone.

As sad memory’s fangs
Sucked the hope from his soul,
He clawed back at the pangs,
Fought madly for control.

He leapt from his bed,
Cursing the gale,
Smashing the glass with his head,
Howled a piteous wail.

He would have ended it there,
Leapt to ragged stones below.
But for a change in the air,
Then a delicate glow.

He held himself fast.
Praying his eyes did not lie.
Was the gale moving past?
Was there light in the sky?

Yes, it was his soul that first saw
The beautiful hues
Spat from the storm’s maw,
In reds, yellows and blues.

The arch numbed his distress
Let hope’s light come through.
Bringing sweet forgetfulness
Of penance past due.

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THE LEADER
By Carl Martin Johnson

The warriors were all gone.
The hunt took them away.
Now in the early dawn
Stood the enemy in battle array.

The sun was rising behind,
Silhouetting on the barranca rim.
Many thoughts ran through the boy’s mind.
All of them were grim.

In minutes they would swarm.
These raiders would kill all.
He must give the alarm,
Rally the other boys to his call.

He was the oldest male.
Thirteen years he had been on earth.
Today he must not fail.
This is why he was given birth.

He caught the Comanche scent.
Terror lodged high in his throat.
There was no way to prevent
The fate that the spirits wrote.

The boy made himself calm inside.
The Comanches would bring slaughter.
His people could not hide.
Their blood would run like water.

He gave a war cry as he grabbed a spear,
And returned to face the foe.
Could he overcome his fear?
In a moment he would know.

And the boys who ran to his aid
Trusted him to lead their war.
They would not be afraid
Because men know who leaders are.

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THE CLICK
By Carl Martin Johnson

Metallic note of thwarted death
Rang hollow in my ear,
Sucking out my frightened breath,
Striking deep with fear.

I snapped my gaze ‘round to the eyes.
They were wide in shock like mine
We were like caught children in surprise,
Both shocked at Fate’s design.

His rifle’s muzzle kissed my cheek.
It would have spat death’s fire.
Every part of me went limp and weak.
At the next sound I’d expire.

He jerked the trigger hard twice more.
I was frozen; easy prey.
First I begged God, then I swore.
But my enemy had rolled away.

Now when I hear a hollow click,
I work hard at self-control.
Yet, my reflexes turn me quick
To see if it is my missed death knell’s toll.

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THE THOUGHT SHARED
By Carl Martin Johnson

It flickered a brief spark
In the depths of a young man’s mind,
Then disappeared into the dark,
Along with others of its kind.

It incubated there for years,
Growing, becoming stronger.
Overcoming uncertainties and fears,
Until it could be held no longer.

The man now older wrote it out
To better contemplate.
As he did he lost all doubt
That the idea could not wait.

He discussed it with his friends,
They with many more.
There were improvements and amends,
But the original stayed the core.

Like a hot ember it set fire
To the kindling in men’s hearts,
Fueling such raging desire,
That, once lit, never departs.

The fire became a sun,
Guiding humanity with its light.
There was a great thing to be done,
Though it would mean a fight.

At last the thought’s great heat
Forged steel in mankind’s soul,
Made him more complete,
Gave him his fate’s control.

Then the man who’d birthed the thought
That held him so long enthralled,
Saw the idea real, if dearly bought.
And America it was called.

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A SINNER’S LAMENT  (Birthday Card to Jesus)
By Carl Martin Johnson

I’m just a simple warrior,
Who writes an occasional rhyme.
I don’t think about God a lot.
Seems I never have the time.

I’m a pretty big sinner, too.
I’m always in or around it.
If there’s a sin I haven’t done,
It’s because I’ve not yet found it.

But, I better try to stay afloat
On the bad deeds in which I swim,
Because, if God can become Man for me,
I should try to be a little like Him.

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ODE TO THE CROSS AT MOUNT SOLEDAD
By Carl Martin Johnson

A cross stands sentinel over the ground
Where my warrior brothers sleep.
It guards well each sacred mound,
And will forever this vigil keep.

To their honor it was raised.
To their honor it will stand,
As long as they are praised
For defending this our land.

The grass is green around,
Watered by heroes’ blood.
Whose spirits make soft sound
Only by warriors understood.

Now some would topple this cross,
The comfort of those who fought.
That would be a terrible loss.
Freedom to raise it was hard-fought.

Would they attack, then come ahead.
Bring on their evil hordes.
If they insult our honored dead,
Their foul hearts will taste our swords.

There are things for which men stand,
Which tradition holds most dear.
This cross is on warrior land.
Our stand will be made here.

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