When Johnny Comes Marching Home

“Don’t you take away my wings,”

I recall whispering

Into the nurse’s ear.

“I don’t think you understand

I am nothing without them,”

I said and she gazed

Into my eyes

With soft sadness behind rosy complexion

As she sent me away

Approved for battle.

“What you got to lose, Johnny?”

Dean had asked,

Spitting tobacco juice

Just past my shoulder.

“Your life has been

a fucking hellhole,

and you ain’t deserved it.

So you go right out there

And show them all that greatness

You never showed anyone before.

Sonuvabitch,

Don’t you dare hold back.”

Right he was

About this life.

Though educated

More than Dean,

I hadn’t gotten shit out

Of the first 17 years.

But I had known

Since I was 11

That somehow,

I was going to fly.

Oh boy, fly I did.

Fly I did.

Who knew there is so much passion

Right before death.

I figured that out

That night when I didn’t hold back.

Wrapped in the sheets with her,

I came the closest I’d ever been

To life and death

Simultaneously.

Take my word—

I flew like an eagle.

Would have made any man jealous.

They all wanted to be there, you know.

Most of the boys in my old town.

They thought fighting for Ol’ America

Was the neatest thing

That one could do.

“Kills us,”

they said,

“It really kills us

to not be able

to come fight with you,

Johnny.”

“Kills us.”

Goodhearted boys,

They meant the best.

Sent me off with chocolates,

I ate them right out of her mouth.

They took pride and excitement

In the prospect of fighting.

They didn’t know shit about

What they were saying.

Cause it killed me.

It really killed me.

I got my wings,

Spread them full out.

Soaring like I’d dreamed,

No holding back.

Soaring that night in bed with her

To come back and hear she’d

Blown     up,

Her perfect tits

Becoming ashes scattered

Over the earth.

Soaring like I’d dreamed,

Through the motherfucking grey skies

watching my brothers

go up

in

flames

that defied gravity.

It wasn’t of this world,

Fires fifty thousand feet

Above the ground,

Burning the flesh

Clean off their bones.

It wasn’t of this world.

It was a fucking hellhole,

That’s what it was.

And it killed me.

It really killed me.

I didn’t know what I got till it was gone.

Cause when I came home,

I’d lost it all.

I’m not Johnny anymore.

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