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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

Waking Among The Dead
The Soldier's Grandmother

By Carl Martin Johnson

He smiled, recalling her soft face,
Laugh lines around blue eyes,
Her simple movements, full of grace,
As she calmed his childish cries.

A warmth about his grandmother
Made the world all good.
She made him feel like no other
Person ever could.

She smelled of lavender and baking,
Her breath like minted tea.
It sent his young heart aching
For those times that used to be.

She was gone, but now she’d hold him
As he lay dying on the field.
He knew, as she had told him,
His soul would soon be healed.

He felt her arms around him,
And he looked up to the sky.
He thanked God that she had found him.
Now he was not afraid to die.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Josemaria blinked against the bright sun
That burned the new morning sky.
He shifted the weight of his dead father’s gun
And thought “What a fine day to die.”

A crow shrieked salute as he left
The mud hut he would see no more.
His woman scowled as if he’d committed a theft
Then turned and went back through the door.

It would take all day to finish his walk,
So he strode forward with purpose and pride.
At long last his people were done with just talk.
No longer would the downtrodden hide.

His ancestors for generations
Had taken up arms for a side.
They were endless, these confrontations,
No matter the many who died.

His party would win this, he prayed.
Their leader would be just for a time.
Yet, the way human beings are made,
He would likely soon succumb to crime.

Josemaria sighed with resignation.
It was his fate to fight and be killed.
The revolution was no celebration,
But it must be what Heaven willed.


By Carl Martin Johnson

This cage will not hold me forever.
Someday I will break free.
Then that goddamned guard will rue the day
He used his boots on me.

I don’t know how long I’ve been here.
Maybe a year or two.
Sometimes I kind of forget things,
But I’ll never forget you.

I kissed you at my embarkation.
I thought I’d be gone a year.
Sure as hell never thought,
I’d end up in a place like here.

I was almost twenty when I left.
I sure hope you’re still waiting.
Guess I shouldn’t expect too much
We’d barely started dating.

I’ll get back home quick as I can.
Then I’ll take you dancing.
I know I’m not great though
At all that smooth romancing.

Damn! Here he comes
With a bowl of that rotten shit.
I’ll force it down so I don’t starve,
But I can’t look at it.

I used to think of home sometimes.
Now I really can’t remember.
Only swimming in summertime
And Christmas in December.

They laugh at me, these scrawny guards.
They think that I won’t make it.
Bet they will die before I do.
I’ll show them I can take it.

My leg is nearly healed.
Soon I’ll be able to run.
Then I will show these bastards
Just how a war is won.

I’ll come back and free my friends.
Kill all these bastards dead.
Meantime I’ll run off when I can,
If only in my head.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Sing to me of the hero,
Of him who laid down his life,
Of the debt to him that we owe,
And to his orphan and his wife.

Tell me how he forged ahead,
His own safety of no concern.
That he would win or sure be dead.
Our victory he would earn.

How the bullets tore him,
Yet he kept charging on,
Scattering the enemy before him
Until they all were gone.

How he stooped for a comrade,
Though himself bled nearly dry.
His pain was driving him half-mad,
But he would not let his brother die.

How in that very last second,
When he drew his final breath,
In his mind his young wife beckoned
To ease him into death.

Sing of him and all the others,
Those who died that we may live.
Brave and honored band of brothers,
They gave all a man can give.



By Carl Martin Johnson

He was too little to play ball,
Too clumsy for marching band.
Not an athletic boy at all,
Not much strength at his command.

There were some who taunted,
But he stood up best he could.
He walked proud and went undaunted,
Though his fighting skills weren’t good.

He struggled through his school days,
Not excelling, just getting by,
Overcoming classmates’ cruel ways.
Improving with every try.

Then he went to war
In a harsh land of dry mountains.
Where just being left a scar,
And the blood flowed down in fountains

It was there he met his fate.
Many lives he saved.
Though his sacrifice was great
In the hard death that he braved.

Now his mother stands full proud,
His Medal of Honor in her hand.
And the audience applaud is loud
For her Little Man.


By Carl Martin Johnson

Courage dripped out, drop by drop,
Watering the battlefield.
Waiting for the dying to stop
To see what the crop would yield.

The land was sown with brave hearts,
Fertilized with young lives,
Ripe with severed parts
From anyone who survives.

Ideas contested may fade or evolve.
The sacrifice may be thought in vain
Still, it was not the conflict the war meant to solve,
But to edify those of us who remain.

The virtues that flowed along with the blood
Show us the best of mankind.
Though their souls be now in eternity’s flood,
The dead leave valued lessons behind.

Kings that we fight for are killed or dethroned
Yet our tribe must be ever protected.
Fighting skills must be kept sharply honed,
Honor of sacrifice never neglected.

Therefore, give the warrior his praise,
Combatants on both sides of the fight,
So long as they are brave and walk honor’s ways.
For wrong cause today may tomorrow be right.

Wars are fought for multiple reasons,
Too many to recall by name.
Different places, weapons and seasons,
But the warrior is always the same.



By Carl Martin Johnson

I think it’s kind of funny…think it’s kind of sad
That the times I’ve been near dying
Are the best I’ve ever had,
Even though some left me crying.

I can’t reclaim the roar
Of adrenalin through my veins.
Nothing since then, or before,
Has brought such pleasure with the pains.

I walked the wire that spans the pit,
Daring fate to trip me.
To no fear would I submit,
Nor let terror’s sharp claws grip me.

Death I teased with flirting kisses,
Led her a lover’s chase.
Yes, there were some near misses,
But I always won the race.

Was the next life what I sought,
But feared the jump across?
Was desire for dying why I fought,
Hoping for the final loss?

No, I am too alive.
Each day I eat with greed.
I fight hard to survive.
Courting danger is my need.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I raised my head and inhaled death,
It’s perfume all around me.
With care I took another breath,
To be sure death had not found me.

The battle smoke hung low
Acrid fog in the jungle clearing.
I heard the call of a scavenger crow.
Soon many more would be appearing.

I lay still…the horror froze me,
Yet elated too, at being alive.
Why, I thought, and who chose me
Of all these men to alone survive?

Using my rifle as a cane
I rose slowly to my feet.
There was blood, but little pain.
I felt neither victory nor defeat.

I surveyed the killing ground
Filled with torn and dead,
Wondering if the fallen had found
Worth for what they’d bled.

I held my scream inside
Gave my weapon a castoff push,
Thought a prayer for those who’d died,
And limped into the bush.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I’m looking out over a sea of red,
Washing onto an ochre shore.
It seems oceans I have bled.
Could my body hold any more?

If I were able to turn my head,
I’d see where I’ve been hit.
Where I’m pumping all this blood that’s spread.
Maybe slow it down a bit.

I really feel no pain at all,
But I know I’m badly hurt,
Lying limp here like a damn rag doll
In this stinking red-wet dirt.

I think I’ve lost my hearing.
Either that or the fight is done.
Now my mind is clearing,
I wonder if my side won.

I smell the coppery scent
Of my life juice flooding out.
My time here will soon be spent,
Of that I have no doubt.

Strange I’m not afraid.
I just feel alone.
Been a long time since I prayed.
I reckon that bird has flown.

I’m going to close my eyes.
I’m tired and need to sleep.
Could be this is how a man dies.
Well, does no good to weep.


By Carl Martin Johnson

The horror froze my soul that day.
It held me in its trance.
Hell’s demons all came out to play.
I joined Satan for a dance.

The thumping of artillery shells
That tore brave men apart,
Cordite and human entrail smells
Petrified my heart.

Bloody ballet, chorus screaming,
Orchestra of deadly fire,
Eternity of nightmare dreaming,
The field a blazing funeral pyre.

The butchered lay in pained convulsion,
Begging God to let them die.
I was too busy killing for revulsion,
Too busy bleeding to weep and sigh.

Then silence, thick and sickly-sweet,
Slowly oozed across the ground,
Until the quiet was complete,
Save for low-moaned dying sound.

I saw we had won the fight,
But victory cries would wait.
My soul was sickened at the sight.
And I was too tired to hate.

I knew then what Man could do,
I could see our vicious aura.
We would slaughter all before we’re through.
The Horror! The Horror! The Horror!


By Carl Martin Johnson

We will fight your wars.
We will die if death be needed.
Combat is in our stars.
The fate we’ve been given must be heeded.

The politicians send us here,
But they’re not why we fight.
We risk for those we hold dear,
And the soldier to our right.

We who do war are few.
We are proud to serve the rest.
We do not do that which we do
For cheers or medals on our chest.

Love is why a warrior fights,
Not for hatred of his foe.
Rather to guard your sacred rights,
And ensure your children in tranquility grow.

If we find we have been bled
On a politician’s whim,
He’d best be filled with dread.
For we’ll know the enemy as him.

When we are sent to distant lands,
We will go and not complain.
We will obey all just commands,
Requiring no one to explain.

But if the souls of those who fell
Are abandoned in retreat,
We’ll cast our leaders into hell.
A warrior does not accept defeat.

So, remember, you leaders elected,
We are not toys for you to use.
If we see our honor neglected,
You will have lit a dangerous fuse.

Yet we remain our country’s shield.
There is no cause for alarm.
We will die before we yield,
And let our nation come to harm.

Compatriots, we do your will.
For love of you we fight and die.
Do not lightly make us kill.
Make sure you know the reason why.

Now, fellow citizens, gently sleep.
We stand ready to give warning.
It is a diligent watch we keep,
That you wake safely in the morning.


By Carl Martin Johnson

I am a mercenary soldier.
I hire out my gun for pay.
But I am getting older.
I must find another way.

No country gives me haven,
Though I have fought their wars,
Under leaders great and craven,
Under northern and southern stars.

There was a time when men like me
Were held in high esteem.
In ancient times of chivalry,
Would our silver armor gleam.

In the royal court of Charlemagne
We were called the Paladin.
It is sad to see what became
Of Knights-errant and our kin.

We were dragon slayers,
Searchers for the Grail.
Fair ladies mentioned us in prayer.
And swooned at our chain mail.

Now we fight in savage lands,
For whomever meets our fee.
We roam and kill in lawless bands
Like wolves who’ve been set free.

While in my dreams I am a knight,
On horse with shield and lance.
In the real world I’m damned to fight
In an endless, bloody dance.

I am waning now, bled out my youth
Crimson streams on foreign dirt
My many scars bear out the truth
Of all my pain and hurt.

This fight must be my last one,
For more I have no strength.
And the only fortune I have won
Is a grave just past my length.

So I will drink to ease my care,
While I toast a warrior’s prayer:
“Vive la morte! Vive la guerre!
Vive le sacre mercenaire!”



By Carl Martin Johnson

Fear me if I come for you,
If my sharp sword I unsheath.
Ask any enemy I ever knew
Whom I trampled underneath.

If you see my deadly lance
Hurtling toward your throat,
Know that you will learn Death’s dance,
Nor god nor man will your fate outvote.

I hold Apocalypse in my left hand,
God’s own Wrath in my right.
If a tyrant is with whom you stand,
You and I are going to fight.

Satan flees in terror at my coming.
He panics at my name.
When my war song is drumming,
Demons scatter in coward’s shame.

I am the Paladin.
Archangels fight at my side.
Against Evil I will win.
In righteous battle I take pride.

Ignore me at your peril.
You have been warned now, evil men.
If you find my words are sterile,
Then let the war begin.


Josemaria's Walk
The Horror
Little Man
The Mercenary Soldier
The Field
I Am The Paladin
Laughing At Mortality
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