This was one of the easier poems I had to write, because it is based on what I believe is the greatest, most inspirational and captivating film ever made (the influential film magazine Cahiers du cinéma selected it in 2008 as the second-best film of all time, only behind “Citizen Kane”). It is so like something I would write, and I have written works with themes (usually Mormon) of extreme religiosity resonating throughout. The film is flawless, and I hope this poem inspires you to check it out.
The Little Lambs of Moundsville, West Virginia
John and Pearl—
a gem of the ocean.
The sins of their father fall to them
like the filthy lucre he stole,
his body swaying in the still air.
The little doll of Pearl
carries his costly secret
like an illegitimate child.
The blood smell from the money
brought Preacher Harry Powell—
the devil in the flesh—
to their Moundsville farmhouse.
A death tax collector,
a fallen Angel of Death,
a Grim Reaper that sows deceit.
The smells of fried chicken,
and apple cobbler
fortifies the children on their journey
to the Wherever.
The children tire,
the nocturnal melodies like a lullaby,
but they must keep running,
until they cannot.
From the loft of a barn,
John watches this black sheep
ride his horse in search of
the lost lambs with the loot.
He never sleeps.
The day dawn breaks,
and it is time to run again.
Floating adrift in a boat,
a savior in a dress,
greedy for love,
takes the children,
for they are like treasures
from a sunken ship.
Only she can see their worth.
Her name is Rachel,
but John will come to think of her as Bithiah,
for Bithiah drew Moses out of the water.
John and Pearl,
children of thieves,
of Willa the Weak,
are brought to live with three girls:
Ruby, Mary, and Clary.
It is the home of the Lost and Found.
Then, like a crow,
scouting out a cornfield,
it returns with the scrawl on its talons,
but Rachel’s bullet pierces the creature,
and the demon is exorcised from his body.
All of the children are safe.
This simple Rachel speaks of God and His Son,
the candlelight bathing the faces of the little lambs,
waxing innocent as the moon;
the lost lamb named John
turns away and into the night,
the screen from the door like a veil,
a wall separating him from the words of the black book.
He has heard this story before,
but it is different,
and he hears it told with love—
the way it was meant to be told.
Bless all the little children,
for it was a little child who led them,
they who believed,
to the truth of the wolf that had pulled the wool over their eyes—
blinded by plain words done up fancy.