Before Life’s Broken Dawn

A cigarette rested in the crystal ashtray atop the large leather embossed mahogany desk where he sat. The room was dark except for a small lamp atop the piano in the corner. The moonlight shining through the large floor to ceiling windows.

Stoop shouldered and deep in thought, he poured himself another whiskey.

The window slightly askew, allowing the night’s summer breeze to sweep the drapes over the sill.

It was late but he didn’t sleep anymore, couldn’t find dreams to take him away, couldn’t gain closure watching the sun sink into the sea.

A writer who when young looked into the night sky longing to discover words in the stars that would shape the literary world, words that would flow from his thoughts before the shadows pushed them back into a box for another day, a different time.

He’d worked on a book in the past for around a year, felt good about the progress made, the journey it had taken him on and the comments he’d received from a possible publisher, but unfortunately his thoughts had frozen and his draft still sat on the corner of that desk, ignored, unfinished and begging his return.

Standing for a moment to stretch, he glanced at that journal now dog eared and dusty, picked up his glass and walked over to the piano in the far end of the room, his drink in hand and an unlit cigarette hanging from his lower lip.

He struck a match which illuminated the study touching his cigarette, and then placed two fingers on the worn piano keys which in a dull thump echoed in the silence.

Too many memories, too many days now gone, too many lives already lost he thought as he sat on the long black bench before the piano.

Come lullaby, come lost and lonely song.

Wake the soul which hides beneath the tune that turns the music on.

Strangely an old melody ran through his thoughts.

It was 1941 and the world was at war. A far-off conflict and death in a far-off land.

His thoughts turned to his fiancé and he wondered what he was going to say to her about enlisting now that he was a soldier fighting an enemy, he didn’t know, in a place, he’d never been

Come lullaby so sweet and somber, so tinder and sad, so far away.

So lost in a world now in slumber where a soldiers dreams of love remains.

 The words echoed in his mind.

So lost in a world now in slumber where a soldiers dreams of love remains.

Huh, bad timing he thought to himself, to much fat in the cattle, time to cull the herd. Life had allowed for the world to gather some steam, build hope during the 1930’s, prosper. Yet now the war had decided it was time to recalibrate and bring the stars in line.

He sat alone on the piano bench both hands holding his glass, a tear ran down his cheek and fell into his whisky as he thought of a war so far from home and his fears of the future.

What had he done, why had he enlisted? It wasn’t that he was courageous or felt his not being there wasn’t important, it was as he would say to her, the right thing to do, right place to be at a time like this, in a world where sanity was so needed and in a place that seemed so insane.

Come lullaby which wakes the spirit calling all saints to join God’s march,

And in each soldiers arms they carry the lilies placed on graves now still and stark.

What was his reason, why had he decided he should fight another mans war in a place he didn’t know, had never seen. Was the evil that haunted the world so great that he would give his life to defend his beliefs, his morals, his ancestry?

And as they weep oar our graves now lonely in a potters lot that no one knows, Where lullabies are sung so slowly atop the fields of blood and long-lost souls.

He had maned up, had risen to the task, raised his glass to freedom and saluted all that wasn’t fascism, hate, domination and control of the world. He was no longer a dreamer who believed life was honey and roses, no longer intimidated by the evil that swept over Europe and the Orient. He was one of the millions of those who defended the rights of the human spirit and whose blood would probably be spilled in a small town or pasture somewhere in a day to come, yet still unknown.

I walked into the charge as the pipes began to play,

Where many a man would stumble and many a man would lie, then stay.

Where the lullaby would lull to sleep, the ones who fell to earth that day,

Where boys were men for a very short time,

In the shadows that haunted and heard them pray.

He raised his glass What was his purpose, what was his cause? What reason had he thought would matter in the darkness of life, a soldiers call. Fulfilled and in the field of battle he knew that he would discover that survival wasn’t a game, that his heart was but muscle and that his sacrifice would matter to no one once the battle reigned and blood began to flow.

This lullaby is but a pillow to lay your head in a final rest,

For sweet the slumber in life’s darkness and spirits wander in an unwanted quest.

So here he was, in the darkness of the world trying to come to some realization and clarity of it all. A man in a mid-life crisis who feared the war but feared God more. A man who understood honor, respect, patriotism and duty. A lost soul who was about to put down his pen and pickup a rifle, defend all that was freedom in his understanding and maybe someday, just maybe, finish that book which sat unknown resting on the desk in his study.

It was 1941 and the drumbeat of war rose high and loud above the simple needs in life calling his name, helping him to find the words which belonged in that book, belonged to all of those young soldiers who would sacrifice everything to save that which most would never taste nor touch.

Before the sunrise shook off the darkness the lullaby would play once more,

And whisper in the nighttime silence those words which echoed upon Gods shore,

Before each step you take tonight or in the battle when you rise,

Be certain in the tales you tell of those who fought and those who died.

Drinking the last of his whisky he stood, put his cigarette out, glanced at the unfinished novel atop his desk once more, turned off the light siting on the piano, then walked out the French doors that led to his study and up to bed.

For in each and every lullaby children, you’ll find the winds of time,

The dawn where tomorrows dreams are changing in a world where men are blind.

A place where we know not what or why, yet it happens in our lives,

A place that only you can change when the appointed time arrives.  


Johnny Johnston
Johnny Johnston
An artist/writer as well as graduate of the University of South Carolina with degrees in journalism/20th Century American Literature, and retired senior executive of several international hotel/resort corporations, Johnny is the product of the south having been raised in the ever-changing transient lifestyle of a Carolina coastal resort. A point where he discovered, within his 300-year-old heritage and the world's dramatic social/cultural shifts during the late '60s to early 80’s an ambitious hunger and overwhelming curiosity to touch, see and become a participant in the virtually unlimited possibilities offered to those who wish for and seek life experiences. A journey which when hearing its details initially makes one a bit skeptical, questioning its validity as it is hard to imagine that incidents such as these may have crossed one man’s lifetime. This is the fodder required to step into zones exposing one's personal inner self, which many of his paintings and the words he writes do, openly. An ability to see and hear the tragic, beautiful, accomplished, exciting journey in a life free of inhibitions allowing others the opportunity to live vicariously and become, through his works, a part of its future. His larger works which have been featured in several Colorado and Fredericksburg Texas galleries and resorts have produced a number of collectors and fans. However, over the years, his paintings are mostly viewed by friends, enthusiastic new artist encountered on the streets or a small number of acquaintances he meets when dining in local cafés with his wife.

SOLD OUT! JOIN OUR WAITING LIST! It's not a virtual event. It's not a conference. It's not a seminar, a meeting, or a symposium. It's not about attracting a big crowd. It's not about making a profit, but rather about making a real difference. LEARN MORE HERE



  1. Excellent writing, touching. Brings back memories of all those stories my family has shared with us. So many lives. We have much to be grateful for in our little corner of the world for our ancestors sacrifice. They had no choice. And they did not come back the same.

salon 360°