"Pat 'Fucking' Tillman"


by Jeph Johnson


On his college football jersey
He wore number 42
As an All-American linebacker
In '97 for ASU
Chasing players down,
Gridiron aflame
To the ground with bruising tackles,
He really loved this game
Then in '98 the Cardinals
Of the NFL
Lined him up at strong safety
And noticed he played well
Passes thrown at others,
He would get in the way
Chasing errant tosses
Whenever they would stray
Through the air with interceptions,
Covering bombs, surprise attacks
When they ran their routes against him,
Players shuddered in their tracks
Number 40 played with passion,
Commitment and intent
Loyalty and devotion,
His world seemed so content
The Arizona desert he called home
And loved to live
Forged a future for his family,
Loving wife and future kids
He possessed more than most could ask for:
A strong chin and stiffer lip
Intelligence and boyish charm,
Athletic skill and leadership
Destined to be a hero,
Hall of Fame or President
A man's man all could relate to
...at least those with good intent
But the attacks of 9-11,
That fateful September day
Inspired him to reconsider
How his legacy'd be portrayed
So with courage and conviction,
Without fanfare or acclaim
He removed his Football helmet,
And with his brother took new aim
Through the cross hairs of a rifle
Towards threats we all perceived
Tracking troops who trained in terror
With few stripes upon their sleeve
Wearing now a soldier's helmet,
A new gridiron aflame
The Afghanistan desert
Would be where his new team would train
Dodging errant tosses
Whenever they would stray
Grenades were not footballs
And war was not a game
Through the air this time with missiles,
And more surprise attacks
Obeying all his orders
There was no turning back
Not for Patrick Daniel Tillman,
He had made his oath to fight!
Not for God or praise or accolades,
But for what he saw was right
Pat and Kevin served with honor
And with their tour complete
Saw there mission wasn't over,
So they refused to retreat
A second tour of duty,
Despite doubting the war
Was undertaken by
The Tillman brothers underscored!
Orders now contradicted,
They were caught on steep terrain
This battlefield fiasco
Became a military melee
On the Pakistan border
His unit split twofold
Still obeying orders,
Still doing what he was told
He went on ahead
Despite the easy target on his chest
"How dare he doubt in his diary
This war had become a mess?"
"And this crap about there not being
A God to lead our fight?"
"Wasn't Jesus mad at Mohammed
The whole reason for this plight?"
"And this Iraqi oil
Is America's right to claim"
"Whatever the reason, buddy,
You've no right to place the blame!"
So for enemies and allies
He stood upon that grassless knoll
An atheist not only in harms way 
But outside of a foxhole!
"I'm Pat Fucking Tillman" he cried,
But shots rang out instead
For the sins of our whole country
He took three bullets to the head
Sometimes selfless endeavors
To right which one finds wrong
Become deadly reminders
To not always play along
We must voice with power our opinions
With the utmost urgency
And hold to our convictions
Amidst adversity
For Pat Tillman's not in Heaven,
He's somewhere more unique
He is in all our hearts and actions
Through every word we speak
A man with all to live for,
Caught in an illegal war's drama
We may never know who pulled the trigger,
But it wasn't Saddam or Osama
"Friendly fire" is what they called it,
Meaning it was one of us
When the highest rank in your chain of command
Is someone you can't trust
It becomes rather obvious
Who really is at fault
But I'll leave that up to everyone
Else to try to figure out

Author's Notes/Comments: 

for Pat Tillman, 2014 

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12 years ago terrorists commandeered 4 domestic flights

And suddenly our world changed overnight.


Today people wore red, white and blue as a way

Of commemorating what our country went through that day.


For on that day with our world careening

Those three colors took on a different meaning.


Red represented all the blood that was lost

And that freedom can come at an extremely high cost.


White was the color on our faces that day

As we knelt down together with our families to pray


And blue was the color in our hearts and souls

We were country of people who could not be consoled.


For on the day of that brutal attack

The terrorists stole our innocence...which we’ll never get back.


Yes 12 years ago our world changed overnight

But 12 years later we can see daylight.


For though our colors may have faded... that didn’t last long

Yes the red, white and blue have come back strong.


Our country endured difficult conditions and all those dead

We were courageous in the face of danger-the epitome of red.


We tried to retain our purity and do what’s right

And began a new innocence- the essence of white.


We are vigilant, we persevere and seek justice too

Are all represented by the color blue.


So we proudly wear the colors for these colors shout

America may have been down...but we were never out.



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Grief Renewed


There's no expiration date on sadness.
No time limit to the pain.
For every year, the day comes back,
Like a sorrowful refrain.


No deadline to be met,
For the ending of these tears.
For it comes right back, every time.
Despite how many years.


There's never any real conclusion,
To the horror-show in our mind.
The scenes we saw, replay again,
And peace, is so hard to find.


No culmination, of all days past,
Makes it any easier to bear.
For one day comes, rolling back again,
And reminds us again, of the despair.


It plays a recurrent, memorial chorus,
As each memory again, is re-viewed.
On every single September Eleventh-
Grief, becomes renewed.


Author's Notes/Comments: 

On the 11'th Anniversary of September 11th 2001.
In loving memory of those lost on 9-11-01.
I will never, ever, forget...

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The pain
The sorrow
The smell
The screams
The horror
The tears
On this day
That’s what we remember
But that’s not what should be on our minds
What we should remember
Is the lives lived
Not the lives lost
What our loved ones did
Before that epic day
The love they gave
The laughs they shared
The sacrifices they made
This day makes me think of another day
One so very long ago
When a man who loved all of us so much
That he made the ultimate sacrifice
And just like when I think of him
I think of his life
Not his death
That is how we should think of all the great ones
That were lost this day
Ten years ago
That is how I will think of them
Like I think of Him
So that this day is not a day of sorrow for me
But a day of remembrance
Of love and laughter
A day that brought us all together
A day that united our country
A day that joined us all as one

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10 Years Past

Was it really that long?
Have the years gone so fast?
Was 9-11-01,
Really 10 years past?

But the pain is so fresh,
And still feels so raw.
I sometimes still feel numb,
From the horrors I saw.

The smoke still lingers,
If only in my mind.
Answers sometimes,
Are still so hard to find.

Scenes, they still flash,
I can still hear the screams.
The rumbling, the terrors,
The bending of steel beams.

An anguish that day,
Settled deep in my heart.
And never, not ever,
Will the memory depart.

For I keep it alive,
Like a candle's flame.
Flickering for them,
For every lost name.

In New York, In D.C.
And on a field in Pa.
Though its 10 years past.
I'll never forget that day.

Author's Notes/Comments: 

In memory of every life lost on 09-11-01 and every life lost since as a result of that day. Rest In Peace Dear Souls.

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"All-American Dreamings"

by Jeph Johnson



the day after my Buccaneer winnings
from the "big game" XXXVII
arrived in the form of a

$45 check in my mailbox...

(I had some friends wager

five of my bucks

on their August

Vegas vacation)

we are on the brink of a war

they are saying will incite more terror;
more "nine-elevens"

and rouse a hornet's nest
of Al-Qada cells

wielding car bombs

of bio-nuclear dirt


but the only nest I want on my mind

is the nest egg Tammy and I
are trying to establish

via an "American Dream"
that until she arrived

I never even considered

I entrusted my five dollars

with my free-and-easy
vacationing friends...

and despite all year distrusting

the Tampa Bay running game
Pittman still ran for over 100 yards! 


now the woman I love

(who seems to
-until we marry and the rice is thrown-
still wonder why I do)

and I
have to waste our time

deciding if we should

encourage other's kids
(unlike many

we are waiting until

after we are married

to consider children)
to Go! Fight! Win!
this war none of us understand




to protest

by sending rice to Washington

so the President can
"feed our enemies"

like Jesus requested

(a funny thought

came into my head

just now

in the middle of writing this poem:

what if the people of Iraq

started shooting us

with rice bullets?
that would be funny!)


interestingly enough

Tammy didn't understand
when she first started

watching the NFL

that September Sunday

but by season's end

she had Marvin Harrison's

130-plus receptions
on her fantasy team's statistics

while recognizing Jerry Porter's 

rookie brilliance 

amidst Tim Brown and Jerry Rice

(more rice - how funny!)

so as I keep jotting down

thoughts that seem to continue

bouncing like a football

what are the MGM Grand odds?
(or is U.S. vs. Iraq off the board?)


Author's Notes/Comments: 

2003, for Tammy 

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"Down From the Skies"

by Jeph Johnson

September skies

seemed too serene
from sea to shining sea
looking up I closed my eyes
and joined
the theater of dreams
the newspaper rack's
so empty now
and all I think about
is what we could have been
the planes came crashing down
liberty and freedom slipped
a notch closer to death
"they're not the first two dominoes"
I whispered
under my breath
but TV's now
a box of tears
and streets are clouds of dust
our nation's blood
has washed our fear
urging revenge from us
echoing through a city
of already unfamiliar sounds
cries, crashes, flames
and bravery
collapsed onto the ground
stars and stripes
now drape the caskets
honoring brave men who
were crushed under a hatred
of our red, white and blue
I looked up this morning
and saw a brand new day
vows to never look up again
were easily cast away
all around this nation,
otherwise complacent souls,
awoke and spoke of vengeance
and sought to take control
for I saw in a moment
a noble eagle soar
swooping down from heaven
to settle the score
but not unlike the phoenix
crawling from the ashes
that eagle, who once was landed
is suddenly in fashion

Author's Notes/Comments: 


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