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When Janie Comes Marching Home
JDW (1975 / Portsmouth, Ohio)

When Janie Comes Marching Home

Poem By Jeremy D. Wells

When Johnny comes marching home again,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
We'll give him a hearty welcome then
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout
The ladies they will all turn out
And we'll all feel gay,
When Johnny comes marching home.


Only, this time, it isn’t just Johnny.
It’s Janie and Joanie and June,
Little West Virginia girls from little West Virginia towns
Leaving sons and daughters with coal-miner’s up hollers while they fight for a better future the only way they can
In a land where milk and honey don’t flow no more
And so its dig or die or die trying and the mines don’t welcome women the way the army does
So its mommas from Detroit and sisters from New York City
Its daughters looking for a GI Bill and little girls just looking for a place to lay their head tonight
Where fist or water doesn’t rain down on them
It’s mothers trading the uncertainty of unemployment for the surety of shell-shock
And crippling flashbacks to freeze them in their tracks when Billy comes crying “Mommy I skinned my knee! ”
It’s hitting the dirt in the ATM line when the machine rapid fires bills
Chunka-chunka-chunk
Because it sounds like distant fire fights
and the shame of seeing concern and embarrassment of the faces of children who don’t understand post-traumatic stress or why mommy goes all rigid every time she hears a baby cry.
It’s having your face splashed all over magazine covers while your allies remain anonymous and the neighbors whisper “wonder what happened when…” every time they wave to the POWs in the parade.
This time it isn’t just Johnny but it’s a shell-shocked mama of three, and you tell me how good will things be when the oldest kid grows up too quick and can’t leave the house because somebody’s gotta pick up after mama.
And we still can’t help all the Johnny’s still suffering from the last Gulf War, so you tell me what are we gonna do when Janie comes marching home?

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