© 2017 Barbara Grace Lake

 

His older mates said Johnny Boy
Or John; for me, the name is gone.
It mattered then. It doesn’t now.
It is his life I can’t forget

They all were young, our John much more
Still beardless, clear unjaded eyes
A friend and I adopted him
At service club, we’d talk for hours

John dearly loved his mountain home
The mockingbirds that sang all night
And critters almost tame to hand
Delight as dawn stole through the trees

Not once did John complain of want
He’d food, he said, enough to eat
A coat to keep the winter off
And Pa’s old boots that almost fit

Why then did Johnny Boy enlist?
What prompted him to leave his home?
“In winter pa would hunt, I skinned
Ma tanned the hides and made us coats”

“Last winter for my pa was bad
When finally the doctor came
Pa had pneumonia, might not live
And sure enough the next day died”

John’s mother poorly, father gone
Of siblings eight, the eldest John
His Army pay would serve their need
They told recruiters John 18

The last time I saw Johnny Boy
His company’d locked down to go
He risked court martial to be out
That one last time to see us both

A scarf he purchased for my friend
A Ronson Princess lighter mine
“At fifteen there I will not know
What I must do. I won’t come back.”

About three months, almost the day
Our mail from Johnny’s closest pal
Told of a brave young boy who died
In war he did not understand

The lighter’s in my treasure box
Although so long ago it stopped
That piece of John remains with me
But John Boy’s home, his mountain home.