"Redemption" by Natalie Johnson

In the crisp cold grip of autumn.
In the bitter, freezing wind. 
A band of merry gentlemen, 
Came riding up the hill. 
Their saddle bags were brimming, 
With treasures of gold so pure, 
And books from which knowledge flowed.

They were a band so skilled and free, 
No one matched their might. 
They plundered many a village,
and ne'er did they fear a fight. 
Instead the only thing they feared, 
was the brightness of morning's light. 

For when the sun appeared each day,
the militiamen did wander,
to find where they did sleep. 
If they were e’er discovered, 
They would not live to tell.

They lay in the shadows of the pine trees, 
on a soft bed of forest moss. 
They laughed at stories the others told, 
over pints of beer and ale. 
They plotted the ‘marrows journey, 
and where they would sleep that night. 
And slowly they fell asleep,
In the bright warm air of day.  

The next night they did rise again, 
And stretched away their sleep. 
Then a sound did startle them, 
and their weapons they did raise. 
Fingers taut on triggers, 
And tension within hands on hilts.
Out of the woods a figure, 
old and bent with age,
did stumble to the men’s feet, 
in a fit of wrath and rage. 

 

He pounded at the men’s boot toes, 
and screamed and cursed at they. 
His words came in piercing shrieks. 
His scraggly fingers curled in anger,
and he shot out a wicked stare.

One man did venture to ask, 
Why the man had dragged himself to their camp. 
And the elderman did scream out, 
his sorrowful tale of woe.  
He told of how last night’s raid, 
did leave his town in flames. 
And how his wife and family,
had not escaped alive.  
The men did begin cackling, 
for this was not the first time, 
that they had burned a village,
and a man went mad with fear. 

The man did rise up slowly, 
and his voice took a deep tone. 
He was slowly overtaken, 
his eyes faded to all black.  
And in a mighty voice he shouted, 
at the laughing men now still, 
“ I curse you all till the day of your death, 
One pain for each you have and will kill!” 
He then collapsed to the ground, 
His body moved no more. 
And in his last breath he chuckled, 
at the men now doomed by he. 

The men stood still and silent. 
Each one shaken by fear. 
And one of them did give up, 
and his pistol rang quite clear. 
The rest gazed down upon him, 
his brains leaking from his ear.
They did follow him into death, 
but saddled their horses and rode, 
to try and make amends,
for all the evil deeds they’d done.

 


One man rode west to the village, 
they had burned last ride. 
He poured out all his saddle bags, 
and dropped his elegant sword. 
A small still voice did come from the dark, 
wavering and young. 
It asked him why he did this? 
And why that he had come?
He answered very simply, 
so the lad would understand, 
“ Many evil things I’ve done, 
and evil I must overcome.” 
Then rode away again, to the spot where his loot was stashed, 
to retrieve the rest of the gold,
and return it to from where it had come. 

The second man rode off to the north, 
to where he had been raised.
His family waited there for him, 
and took him with open arms. 
His brother who had been a young child, 
when the man had run away, 
was now a strong young man, 
of the good age of fourteen. 
His mother’s back was arched, 
with age and years of work.
His father’s grave stood tall, 
with a tomb marker made of stone.
He took his sister in his arms, 
a lovely lass of young age. 
And promised to ne’er leave again. 

The third man rode to the east, 
where waves of grain flowed free.
He approached a small cottage fair. 
And saw his wife with a young girl small. 
She saw her husband, 
gone so long, 
and dropped her heavy load. 
She ran to him, 
and he held her close,
with words of apology. 
The young girl stood, 
in awe and fear, 
at the sight of the tall man.
He picked her up, 
and kissed her cheek. 
And introduced himself. 

The final man rode southward, 
to the swamps where his career began. 
He knelt where he first drew blood, 
where his first opponent fell. 
His chest burned with guilt so great, 
so heavy and so dark. 
A single tear fell from his eye, 
and onto the dusty earth.   
He silently told the long dead soul,
of all his inner thoughts. 
He told the soul he was sorry,
and that he would try to make it right. 
Then he stood and rode farther south, 
until he collapsed with exhaustion and thirst.  

Years after the old man did die, 
and the men rode back to the start. 
A cold wind blew o’er the entire earth.
And a scream echoed in every ear. 
One by one each man did fall, 
in a cold and painful way. 
Their families, 
their new relations, 
all cried out the same. 
And deep within the forest, 
where he had fallen so long ago, 
the old man rose from his grave. 

He had a voice now new and strong, 
and a body that was new in the same way. 
He softly spoke a sentence,
Much wiser than his new years,
Of his revenge and triumph.
then on wandering stallion,
He rode off on the breeze.
He rode swiftly to the rebuilt town. 
There he told his wife and child his story, 
and of how the bandits fell.
Then the family vanished in a whisper.
And were n’er seen again. 

 

© Natalie Johnson, Carson Middle School

 

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