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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

Courage Be My Friend
The Soldier's Moon

By Carl Martin Johnson

Full, warm-white overhead
Like an old friend smiling down.
Laughing soft as its happiness spread
Over the young man who lay on the ground.

The soldier leaned back on the grass,
Young face nodding back to the moon.
Watching the plump orb pass
Like a slow-moving circus balloon.

He dreamed without closing his eyes.
He did not want to lose the moon’s gaze,
While he conjured up old nighttime skies
Before war….in happier days.

The face of the moon was transformed.
Its features became that of a girl.
He teared and felt his heart warmed
By the memory of a pretty blond curl.

In his mind, he flew up to meet her.
They twirled dancing in the midst of the stars.
Like a princess he wanted to treat her,
As they spun between Venus and Mars.

Then he kissed her goodbye in his dream,
And came back to earth content.
He had ridden back on a moonbeam.
It was the best moment ever he had spent.

He thought up his thanks to the jolly bright sphere.
He had never had such a night.
He would eternally hold this night dear.
A reward at the end of a fight.

Now the guns boomed again all around.
Though they had seemed silent before.
It was odd, he had not heard a sound.
He would try again to mute their fierce roar.

When he pulled the sweet silence back,
He relaxed and looked once more above.
The glow of the moon in the black
Covered him in a blanket of love.

Heavy eyelids began to close.
He thought to rise lest he fall asleep.
Then he jerked like one who suddenly knows
There is an appointment he has to keep.

The blood had emptied in rivers
From the ragged stumps where legs had been.
His body quaked in cold death shiver,
Fighting a battle he could not win.

Still, he smiled up at the moon again,
Grateful for the help in his dying.
It was good to have a friend,
To make such a time less trying.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Oh God! Let me bear this pain.
Do not let me cry.
Though it near drive me insane,
Let me be a man while I die.

The bullets slapped me back.
There was no pain at first.
I fought through the attack,
Until the mortar burst.

I could lie here in this dirt.
Waiting for my life to end.
Every second filled with hurt.
Death would be a friend.

But I am a soldier still.
I won’t give up the fight.
My spirit they can’t kill.
I’ll stand and do what’s right.


By Carl Martin Johnson

This is not my first fight,
But this time the fear is icy.
Just three of us left tonight.
The situation’s dicey.

My mouth is too dry to swallow.
Both my hands are shaking.
Inside, I’m feeling hollow.
My last breath could be the one I’m taking.

In a minute we’ll attack.
There’s no hiding, I’m afraid.
We are soldiers, we don’t turn back,
Though a soldier’s dues be paid.

St Michael, please hear me.
St Michael, make me brave.
If I can feel you near me,
I won’t lie in a coward’s grave.

Now I’ll close my eyes
And remember who I am.
Everybody dies.
If I die, I’ll die a man.


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 dogtags, but not a trace.
When we moved him they must’ve dropped.

His glazed eyes were open wide,
Disbelieving of his fate.
Amazed that he had 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 enemy hit us seconds later.

I could not read his name.
Shrapnel had shredded his combat shirt.
I felt a sense of blame
For the boy dead and nameless in the dirt.

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


By Carl Martin Johnson

I will no more suffer meekly,
While evil men destroy our lives.
Stand by and look on weakly,
While loathsome cruelty thrives.

My people you have killed.
You have raped and you have robbed.
Sons’ and daughters’ blood you have spilled,
While helpless mothers sobbed.

Now that time is done.
Your executioner is your own creation.
You may think that you have won,
But Hell is your destination.

Look behind you when you beat us.
If you see me, quickly pray.
Though you try hard to defeat us,
It is I who’ll win the day.

You took what I held dear.
Made a man of peace a danger.
Remember, should you see me near,
To mercy I am a stranger.

You think you are hard men.
Compared to some you may well be.
Yet no matter how ruthless you have been,
You are soft compared to me.

I will kill you and your kind.
I will find the rock you’re under.
I am the worst horror in your mind.
I strike with flash and thunder.

You have made me what I am.
Unleashed my warrior heart.
Your black soul I will damn.
Your rotten body tear apart.

Watch for me, I’m coming!
You cannot escape my wrath.
Your death dirge began drumming
The day you crossed my path.


By Carl Martin Johnson

In a minute I will raise my head,
Charge out where harm can find me.
Could be I’ll be quickly dead.
Then my fear will be behind me.

Now my cheek’s pressed to the ground.
If I could I’d crawl into it.
I’ve used all the courage that I found.
Don’t know if this time I can do it.

Their firing’s slowed some now it’s night.
I might make it if they can’t see.
Maybe I’ll live through this fight,
If my angel’s watching me.

I’m running pictures through my mind,
In case it’s the last I can,
Holding the best ones that I find
Since my memories began.

It’s been a pretty good nineteen years.
Sure as hell was not a bore.
Sorry about these sissy tears,
But I’d like a few years more.

Well, it’d be another man if not me
That’s here to make this show.
So, since this is what has got to be,
I’ll be ready when the bugles blow.



By Carl Martin Johnson

Shout out, my brothers!
Shout out in alarm!
We are killing each other.
We are doing great harm.

There is evil around us.
We must not let it spread.
For the Devil has found us,
And he wishes us dead.

Take sword to the hateful.
Hold the good to our heart.
For this sweet world be grateful,
On Humanity’s part.

So, shout out, dear friends!
Keep each other from harm.
Until the world ends,
And God holds us warm.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Courage be my friend today.
There are things that must be done.
Don’t let fear stand in my way.
The battle must be won.

You have stood with me before.
I must ask your help again
It might seem another chore,
But without you I can’t win.

I’ve got the strength and will.
No question I can fight.
And I’ll carry on until
The wrong is returned to right.

I must keep the weak from harm.
For them I cannot fail.
Give them shelter from the storm,
Safe harbor from the gale.

My valor must not lack.
I must be brave without pause.
Once I leap on the wild boar’s back,
I cannot sheathe my claws.

So, courage take my heart.
Wed it to your beauty.
Then I will do my part.
Today I’ll do my duty.


By Carl Martin Johnson

It was my heart that heard the thump
I’d felt it many times before.
I could not stop my jump.
It sent me to the floor.

Was this mortar shell for me?
Was my name etched on its side?
In a moment I would see,
Because there was no place to hide

As it arced into the air,
Its silence sang to me,
Chanting only it knew where
The murderous hit would be.

I had no thought of fear.
No prayers crossed my mind.
Although I hold life dear,
To my fate I held resigned.

Then the thunderous crunch
Threw me high into the air.
It had concussed me with its punch,
But all parts of me were there.

An arm lay torn across my throat,
Spurting blood into my eyes.
And I flinched at every piercing note
Of its dismembered owner’s cries.

I waited limply for the next one.
It would do no good to flee.
I’d just die tired if I tried to run.
Better to accept my destiny.

For hours death rained ‘round me.
Shredding bodies, sowing pain.
But death’s hand never found me,
And I lived to fight again..


By Carl Martin Johnson

The path was not well-trod.
The vines were growing back.
He found this very odd,
But it was the only track.

The jungle could only be entered
By a portal where the thin trail led.
Where the bamboo had been splintered,
And the elephant grass was dead.

He glanced back for a pursuer.
None had found him yet.
But his minutes were growing fewer.
Those who chased would not forget.

Too many had fallen to his fire.
He feared their retribution.
Their hearts filled with bloody ire
Would allow no absolution.

Yet, the jungle held a secret eerie,
A thing he could not define.
Still, he was too bled out and weary
To weigh it in his mind.

Death was sure unless he moved.
No doubt what was behind.
The jungle’s danger was not proved.
What it was he’d have to find.

He forced himself ahead
Into the verdant black.
He overcame his dread.
There was no turning back.

When the enemy found the jungle gate.
Strange sounds seeped from the abyss,
And an acrid smell of rotting hate,
With a taste like Satan’s kiss.

They back off and left their prey,
Afraid to share in his demise.
They had found Hell’s door that day,
In lost Eden’s foul disguise.


By Carl Martin Johnson

It’s the smell of war that sickens,
More than the sight, more than the sound.
The sweet, putrid aroma that thickens,
Over the corpses lying ‘round.

The acrid cordite from the firing,
Nostrils burned from artillery exploding,
Men sweat-soaked, still perspiring,
In constant shooting and reloading.

On theater screens we see war,
But it misses other senses.
It is far from how things are,
In spite of Hollywood’s pretenses.

We don’t experience the nauseating reek
Of a comrade’s guts spilled into his hands,
Or the coppery scent of the red leak
As he bleeds out where he stands.

Before we are caught in a wave
Of battle’s undeniable glory,
Remember that the brave
Fight in an arena that is gory.

And when we must send our youth
To combat, perhaps to die,
Take note of old warriors’ truth:
There is more to war than meets the eye.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Have I lived too long?
Have I missed my chance at glory?
Will no one write my song?
No author of my story?

What options were left unmined?
What paths left unexplored?
Has history left me behind
Because too quickly I was bored?

My achievements are little noted.
No statues have been raised.
My followers hardly devoted.
My successes but mildly praised.

But I have time remaining.
I will find a worthy crusade.
And instead of my complaining,
I will earn my accolade.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I am Julius, a Caesar,
Emperor of Rome.
She is my love. I live to please her
Her seven hills are my home.

The lands I’ve given her are vast.
I’ve made her wealthy and secure.
Her grandeur will forever last.
Her culture will endure.

But when I search my heart,
I know I’m just a man,
Though Fate has written me a part
That I will play the best I can.

Will what I do have import
Ten centuries from now?
Or will cruel history distort
What I do and how?

Will someone in future years
See back inside my mind,
And realize my laughs and tears
Were no different than their kind?

I know I am not divine,
But I must act a god.
This world I walk is mine.
Civilization grows where I’ve trod.

Can I be man and Caesar too?
I must; that is my life.
Else all my works undo,
And I fall to treason’s knife."



By Carl Martin Johnson

He lay there on the battlefield
Amongst the dead and dying.
Those whose souls were yet to yield
Were moaning low or crying.

All through the night he kept still.
Any movement was fraught with pain.
He could neither die nor kill,
Nor help, should any living remain.

By dawn there was no sound,
Save the whispers of the dead,
And the clumsy flapping ‘round
Of the vultures overhead.

He dragged himself upright,
Hurting, bloody and dazed.
He could see no one to fight
Through eyes near-blind and glazed.

He glimpsed his rifle in the mud,
But he left it where it lay.
He had seen too much blood.
He would kill no more that day.

As he limped across the dead,
He knew he would fight again.
Though when his blood was shed,
The war’s goal would be to win.



The Door
The Last Fight
The New Man
The Smell Of War
Chance At Glory
The Charge
Shout Out
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