© Carl Martin Johnson, All rights reserved

 
 

THE KILLING FIELD
By Carl Martin Johnson

Death’s perfume traveled thick and far,
Spreading foretaste of the horror,
Wreaked by the cruel goddess of war
On the men who had died for her.

Through the night I moved with care,
Jungle silence the enemy’s warning.
Knowing the dark’s cloak would be threadbare
In the coming light of morning.

I pressed on toward the smell,
Afraid of what I’d find.
Was this a jungle where demons dwell,
Or was the stench from humankind?

I was the last of my patrol,
Stumbling bleeding and afraid.
Yet I would not release my soul.
I swore death would be delayed.

The jungle at last began to thin.
Moonlight filtered through the trees.
Far less concealment than had been.
My heart began to freeze.

The skyglow bathed the field ahead.
I dropped quickly to the ground.
To my front were only wordless dead,
In a still ballet profound.

Weapon ready, I rose slowly,
Wiping blood-sweat from my eyes,
In quiet absolute, unholy,
Save escaping spirits’ sighs.

Then, in milk-white tropic light,
A tattered foe clawed to his feet.
Though he had not been killed outright,
He was only shredded meat.

He did his best to lift his gun.
Mine was pointed straight.
While I had the duel won,
I was too tired to hate.

Our locked eyes could not turn away.
Bloody death made him my brother.
We might fight another day,
But we would not kill each other.

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SEARCH HARD
By Carl Martin Johnson

Search hard for that born in you.
Every human has a seed.
What will be and what has been you,
It will grow to what you need.

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PANIC’S PANTHER
By Carl Martin Johnson

Panic’s panther stalks the night,
Crying for your soul.
Take great care or feel his bite,
Your spirit swallowed whole.

You’d best journey armed.
Use courage as your spear.
You cannot be harmed
If you overcome your fear.

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YOU COMPLETE THE WORLD
By Carl Martin Johnson

You make the world complete.
Without you it’s not whole.
Long before your heart first beat,
You were a human soul.

You will never cease to be,
Even though you may change form.
You exist eternally.
Death itself can do no harm.

You are partner in creation.
Look inside and know.
Rise up in celebration.
Feel your being grow.

 

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WAKE THE COURAGE
By Carl Martin Johnson
(To the Patriots of Venezuela)

Wake the courage that lies sleeping.
Rouse it now and fight!
The nation’s heart is in your keeping.
Her soul is your birthright.

Feel your spirit’s flame.
Burn bright through tyrant’s chains.
Put the despot’s hordes to shame.
Heroes’ blood flows through your veins.

Right will be your shield.
Honor your sharp sword.
They will see your nation healed,
And the people’s rule restored.

So together cast your lot.
Accept your obligation.
Though the struggle be hard fought,
You will restore your nation.

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PATRIOT’S GHOST
By Carl Martin Johnson

I gave my life for liberty.
I do not begrudge the price.
Should it keep my people free,
I would gladly pay it twice.

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THE FLEETING WORD
By Carl Martin Johnson

A fine word slipped my mind,
There briefly and then gone.
They are so hard to find,
And how quickly they move on.

Could be it is still there
In some dark recess of my brain,
Hiding from fame’s glare
Until safe to move again.

But poets are notoriously sly.
Not people words should trust.
For great syllables we would die,
And cheat, if cheat we must.

So, I will lie in wait,
Keeping my thoughts clear,
Using nonchalance as bait,
‘Til that damned word comes near!

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THE WATCHFUL GHOST
By Carl Martin Johnson

I stand here in the twilight,
This place ‘tween Life and Death,
To guide souls through the Good Night,
When the body breathes last breath.

I watch as they rush by,
Eyes spread wide in terror,
Wanting badly not to die,
Certain fate has made an error.

I calm them when I can,
Show them the Light ahead,
Remind them the soul of Man
Lives on after the body’s dead.

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COURAGE
By Carl Martin Johnson

It is courage makes a warrior whole,
Gives the other virtues worth,
Rich water that grows his soul,
And lends value to his birth.

No matter a handsome face,
Untold wealth or fame,
The coward is a disgrace,
His tribe’s undying shame.

The gods love most the brave
Who does the best he can.
His memory they will save.
It is he whom they call Man.

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MONSOON PATROL
By Carl Martin Johnson

This day’s been long and draining.
We’re weary from the fight.
Soaked through from heavy raining,
Praying for the cloak of night.

The choppers cannot fly.
The downpour is too hard.
If we don’t want to die,
We best keep up our guard.

The new guy finally died.
He’d been in lots of pain.
No one knew I cried,
Not in this fucking rain.

We’ve finally made the clearing.
We’ll get evaced at dawn.
It’s not Charlie, but rain I’m fearing.
Praying these damned clouds be gone.

Tonight no one will sleep.
Too scared and cold and wet.
We can’t hear Charlie creep,
‘Cause this storm ain’t stopping yet.

I wonder if I’ll make it.
Guess we all think the same.
I’m not good, but I can take it.
I won’t cause my people shame.

If I live, I will remember,
How I survived where I have been,
In the monsoons of September,
In the jungle near Tay Ninh.

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CLOUD WINGS
By Carl Martin Johnson

My son, see that cloud up there?
The one with fluffy wings?
Must be a guardian angel somewhere
Who’s looking for those things.

Maybe he took them off to nap,
But I don’t think angels sleep.
Or could be he just broke a strap
While making a celestial leap.

So when you kneel to pray tonight,
If a sad angel’s walking by,
Tell him things will be all right.
That his wings are in the sky.


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CAROLINAS FIGHTING
By Carl Martin Johnson

I fight in this damned swamp
‘Gainst the Redcoat and the Tory.
With their cannon and their pomp
They fight for King and glory.

But they kill our wives and kin
And our sisters desecrate.
I know it ain’t no sin
For this Colonial to hate.

I will kill until I die
These men who scourge my land.
In ambush here I lie
‘Til God stays my bloody hand.

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THAT STAR UP THERE IS MINE
By Carl Martin Johnson

That star up there is mine,
The third in Orion’s Belt.
It is my sacred sign
For the love of Life I’ve felt.

My soul set it afire
Long before I drew first breath.
But its flame will not expire
With my frail body’s death.

I’ll rest there for a while,
Before I move along,
Look down at Earth and smile,
Then go where I belong.

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GHOST HOUR
By Carl Martin Johnson

There is an hour ‘twixt dark and day
When restless spirits roam.
Fresh dead ghosts who’ve lost their way
While searching for a home.

Pale wisps flying in the wind,
Feel them graze your face,
Moaning low that they have sinned,
Begging Heaven for a place.

Whisper a quick prayer
As the lonely souls slip past.
For soon you will fly there.
No human life can last.

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RANDOM WORDS
By Carl Martin Johnson

Words spill random from my pen,
Searching for a meaning.
If they find one, only then,
Will I begin my preening.
 
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BORROWED SMILE
By Carl Martin Johnson

I love that smile you’re wearing.
I wonder, may I borrow?
It seems so warm and caring,
While I am bathed in sorrow.

I promise I’ll return it
When I have grown my own.
Meantime, I’ll try to learn it
From the happy seed you’ve sown.
 
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THAT CLOUD THERE
By Carl Martin Johnson

That cloud there will disappear.
They never last for long.
The sky will again be blue and clear,
The birds break into song.
 
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THE HANGMAN
By Carl Martin Johnson

The hangman climbed up slow.
He would send a man to die
Who killed a man he did not know,
Nor did he know the reason why.

He looked long at the condemned’s face.
It was pale but held up well.
Would the hangman have such grace
Were he so near to Hell?

As he slipped on the blinding hood,
The damned man breathed a sigh.
At last he understood
That in seconds he would die.

Then he heard the doomed man pray,
And the hangman’s hands stopped still.
He climbed down and walked away.
Today the hangman would not kill.

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OUTSIDE HEAVEN’S DOOR
By Carl Martin Johnson

Heaven’s door was closed.
I could not get in.
Too evil, I supposed.
Too bathed in vice and sin.

Then I knocked quite hard,
I swore I’d make my case,
Until at last an angel guard
Came to show his face.

I said “Angel, I’m a sinner,
Yet not much more than most.
Really just a beginner.
I don’t deserve to roast.”

He said “It’s not what you have done.
Those sins we could let slide,
But when love was needed you gave none.
So you’ll remain outside.”
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A LONELY NIGHT IN HOLLYWOOD
By Carl Martin Johnson

Late at night in Hollywood,
Loneliness is hard.
Sadness is the neighborhood
On Sunset Boulevard.

Maybe you’ll become a star,
Maybe you will fail.
Each rejection leaves a scar.
Your soul is growing frail.

But you don’t dare give in.
You must keep on trying.
Tell yourself that you will win.
And don’t quit short of dying.

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THE MAN UNDER THE TREE
By Carl Martin Johnson

There lies a man beneath that tree.
I killed him days ago.
I’d like to think I set him free,
But really I don’t know.

Others are sprawled ‘round him,
Lots of dead and dying.
But it was my bullet found him,
And left a mother crying.

His mouth seems to be grinning,
As if he welcomed death.
Could be a new life he’s beginning,
Though he’s spat out mortal breath.

I’ll join him soon, just could be.
This battle’s far from done.
Then I’ll bet we both agree
That neither side has won.

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I'D DO IT ALL AGAIN
By Carl Martin Johnson

I’d do it all again.
I wouldn’t change a thing.
Each good deed, every sin,
It was my song to sing.

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THE WORLD TWIRLED ON MY FINGER
By Carl Martin Johnson

The world twirled on my finger,
Spinning, spinning fast.
I knew it would not linger.
Now that time is past.

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BREATHING MOONLIGHT
By Carl Martin Johnson

I inhaled the moonlight
To fill me with its glow.
I stood in the cool night
And felt life’s gentle flow.

The stars sang a silent lullaby
To bring my soul to peace,
And showed me my place in the sky
When my mortal time will cease.

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IMMORTAL
By Carl Martin Johnson

My soul will see the stars grow dim,
The sun burn to an ember,
The universe surge past its brim,
And men cease to remember.

I will touch the face of God.
With His angels I will fly.
All creation will be awed,
For I will never die.

 
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STAND
By Carl Martin Johnson

If I do not stand and fight,
What will I become?
Shall I freeze or run in fright
When the enemy beats his drum?

Is my heart so weak
That I let my nation fall?
Only safety do I seek?
Am I a man at all?

Let no one doubt my will.
Attack my land and die!
I do not long to kill,
But beware my battle cry.


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