I wrote this very long poem in a prison cell in Menard on deadlock. I was thinking of my family’s regular Sunday drive from Mosinee, WI to Rockford, IL, 200 miles. One Sunday morning, a misty rain froze on the pavement, making driving treacherous. We made the trip anyway, and I remember Becky leaning over the front seat as she liked to do, her long pigtails dangling on the seatback, asking why we did such a crazy thing.
This poem is a ballad filled with allusions to scripture and to the doctrines of that branch of the Plymouth Brethren. I wrote it in their most common hymn meter, in which the lines are 18.104.22.168. and the 6-beat lines rhyme. For an exmple, think “Amazing Grace” or read this incredibly long poem.
The wipers squeaked across the glass
To scrape the fog-made mist,
A pair of pigtails crossed the seat,
He felt a tiny wrist.
My Dear, he said, you must climb back,
I cannot drive like this,
This fog is thick, my eyes are sore,
Climb back now, little Miss.
How come we always drive so far
Just to meet with God?
My good friend Mary walks to church,
It’s just a block for Todd.
We go where God would have us go
We’re gathered to His name,
The Christian saints in Acts did so,
And we’re to do the same.
But Dad, she asked, how come we can’t
Meet God near where we live?
That way you’d save a lot of gas
And there’d be more to give.
To hearken’s better than the fat
Of rams, was his advice,
And to obey is better than
A great big sacrifice.
Now climb back girl before we crash,
This fog is closing tight,
And listen well to what I say,
I’ll teach you Truth and Light.
The thousands, millions, billions who
Seek God in their own way
Are headed for destruction sure,
I faithfully must say.
If you could bore a tunnel through
The earth below our feet,
You’d land in what we call the East
If you got through the heat.
Religions there teach people that
When dead they’ll live again,
Their Karma may make them a rat,
Now that belief is sin.
A little closer to us here,
But still so far away,
Five million Jews in Palestine
Believe in their own way.
The Muslims in the Asian land,
Six hundred million strong,
Say Jesus equaled Abraham,
So they are just as wrong.
The little head appeared again,
Hey Daddy, see that truck?
It makes the fifth one off the road
And all of them are stuck.
My Dear, the fog is freezing now,
So sit back still and tight,
And I will teach you as I drive
And you’ll learn what is right.
Where was I now? Oh yes, I know,
The atheist is next,
God calls him fool, agnostic too,
He’s only more perplexed.
But all of those you’ve mentioned are
An unbelieving throng,
My friends are Christians just like us,
They cannot all be wrong.
My little girl, the lesson you
Must learn from me today:
All who profess Christianity
May not be what they say.
The Mormons hold their man-writ books
To be the Word of God.
On Saturday the Adventists
Would never mow their sod.
Jehovah’s Witnesses there are
And Christian Scientists some,
With Guinea pig they share this trait:
Not pig, nor Guinea from.
I know that well, my father dear,
But my friends Bill and Todd
Believe in Jesus as their Lord,
Their parents worship God.
Of Catholic priests you could say that,
But error filled are they
To grant what only God can give,
To say “Absolvo te.”
At first the Protestants were right
To leave the Roman bed,
But now, though they profess to live,
They are as good as dead.
But my friend Todd is none of these,
His dad’s no priest of Rome,
Or Mormon, Jew or Protestant,
I’ve been in his home.
His folks believe that Jesus saves,
Their Bible church is sound,
They read the scriptures and they pass
The bread and wine around.
Why can’t we go to church with them?
It’s in our neighborhood,
And we could spend the time we’d save
To treat old people good.
Oh, little one, it sounds so fine
To let go principle,
But God has shown us in His Word
The Path of blessing full.
And I must tell you one thing more
Oh, that this fog would go
In things divine you must believe,
You shouldn’t reason so.
Todd’s Bible church, I will admit,
Speaks well of Jesus’ name,
The Nazarenes are saved by grace
And Baptists are the same.
But they all pay their clergymen,
They call him Reverend,
God is the Holy Reverend One,
All knees to Him must bend.
Disdaining all of these we meet
In all humility,
But we are sure we have the Truth
If never harmony.
Now there’s a group much closer home
That satisfies me fine,
They were in Fellowship until
They left the Ground Divine.
Though evil birds lodge in the tree
We must fight nail and tooth
To serve our Lord, the Prince of Peace,
To champion the Truth.
So if we drive through fog and mist
And freezing slippery road
To please the Lord who loves us so,
It’s not a heavy load.
I have a question for you, Dad,
If you can answer me,
Compared to groups in all the world,
How big a group are we?
Well, Child, we are a feeble lot,
A Remnant, just a few,
Six billion holds the world, our group
Six hundred fifty two.
The little girl was good in math;
She sat back and she thought,
She worked the problem in her head,
The way she had been taught.
Why Dad, she cried, in great surprise,
This all must be a hoax,
Would God keep Truth from all but one
Among ten million folks?
My little Dove, he cried, amazed,
Don’t ever talk that way,
We must keep reason from our faith,
Oh Lord, teach us to pray.
He stopped the car and then he said,
Let’s pray right now, my child,
Help us, oh Lord, to know thy Truth
And make this fog more mild.
Her little eyes peered through the glass
As they drove on again,
She looked ahead, she glanced behind,
This little girl of ten.
Hey Dad, look at the car ahead,
Just two pink spots of light,
The headlights of the car behind
Are just a touch more bright.
But Dad, I see you just as well
As if the air were clear,
Just we can see, while they’re all fogged,
The Lord answered our prayer.
Oh silly girl, he laughing said,
It just appears that way;
You have so very much to learn,
We’re just as fogged as they.
Thank you for reading my blog. I hope you visit often. My upcoming book, Tom Henry: Confession of a Killer, will be e-published in September.