Johnny’s All Done Marching

Written Memorial Day Weekend 2014


(With a few lines from the patriotic WW1 song “Over There” written by George M. Cohan in April 1917. Americans believed at that time that the war would be short and the song reflected that expectation)

Johnny’s out of luck
next to his
broken down
that’s been running on fumes
for too long,
a rolling tomb,
a shell
of what it was
years ago
and there he is
on the side of the road
with that million-mile stare
out beyond nowhere,
and the midnight train
ain’t coming
and he’s left humming
that tune
that he tries to forget
that patriotic tune
trapped inside his head
that no snake-oil
can erase…
“Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun…”
and he doesn’t want it anymore
but can never give it back
“Hurry right away, no delay, go today…”
But after it’s over
the lines at the VA
are a mile long
and they end in
mountains of pills
“Make your daddy glad to have had such a lad…”
and he can’t stand his family,
and he can’t face his own reflection
“Tell your sweetheart not to pine,
To be proud her boy’s in line…”
and when you no longer love yourself
it gets harder to say
‘I love you’ to someone else
and mean it.
“Hoist the flag and let her fly
Yankee Doodle do or die…”
and he gets sick to his stomach
whenever he sees the flag
because he knows it’s blood-soaked
and used to hide the bodies
“Make your mother proud of you
and the old red white and blue…”
and when he looks at the sky
he knows god doesn’t exist
because if he did
and the blue sky is blue
because he loves them,
god wouldn’t keep killing Johnny’s friends
“Send the word, send the word over there…”
and he realizes
that practically everything
he was ever taught and told
is a lie
“That the Yanks are coming, the Yanks are coming
the drums rum-tumming everywhere…”
and he can’t forget
that fucking song
“So prepare, say a prayer,
Send the word, send the word to beware…”
and he figured out
to beware
so he tries
to start running
but he’s ragged,
can’t sleep
with all those war drums
jagged tunes
of more war
after war
after war
but he got
quicksand feet now
and there are
too many fields
left to plow
but all he’s got
is swords
no plow shares in sight
and there is no
sharing the blame
who’s to blame
Uncle Sam?
but it doesn’t matter
he’s madder than the hatter
pickled from too many
government pills
that deer in headlights
shoot to kill
no more left
shoot to thrill
and the light is too bright
and Johnny’s too tired
to fight
so with his last breath
Johnny scratch’s his swansong exit
stage left
into the pavement
“We’ll be over, we’re coming over…”
someone called the cops
about the crazy guy
on the side of the road
in a drugged out haze,
smoke billowing out
of the American-made
and it looks like Johnny got a gun
and he won’t run
and hide,
he’d rather get high
on adrenaline
one last time…

“And we won’t come back
till it’s over,
over there!”
and he wishes
that he never
made it back,
but he did
to a hero’s welcome
complete with handshakes
and accolades
and free beer
at his local VFW
but here he is now
bleeding out by the side of the road
suicide by cop,
and some will call him a coward
but he found no other way
to silence that deafening sound
of new war drums rum-tumming
but in Uncle Sam’s eyes, it’s fine
because new Johnny’s and Jane’s
are born all the time
and grow up learning to sing
age-old patriotic tunes,
not realizing
that when they get home,
that there’s no seats left
in the VA waiting room
and after the beer and accolades
Twenty-Two of them will die
By their own hand…
Every single day
(according to the VA)
So, even if they make it
Home from Iraq and Afghanistan
Twenty-Two a day will decide
That the booze ain’t working anymore
Twenty-Two a day will give up
And choose to join Johnny
and permanently silence
those fucking rum-tumming
goddamn drums of war

About soitgoes1984

I live on a small island in the middle of the Pacific ocean in the Hawaiian Kingdom which is currently illegally occupied by the American government. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
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