Sunday, September 09, 2007

Madeleine L'Engle as Poet

I honestly don't think that L'Engle was as powerful a writer of poetry as she was of prose.

Yet, I read her poems, because in her poetry she gamely wrestled with God, in all the joy and pain that comes with trying to be a person of faith.

Late tonight I pulled down yet another book, THE WEATHER OF THE HEART, a book of L'Engle's poems published in 1978. This one is a beauty, and particularly appropriate at the moment of her death. It is titled LOVE LETTER.

I hate you, God.
Love, Madeleine.

    I write my message on water
    and at bedtime I tiptoe upstairs
    and let it flow under your door.

When I am angry with you
I know that you are there
even if you do not answer my knock
even when your butler opens the door an inch
and flaps his thousand wings in annoyance
at such untoward interruption
and says that the master is not at home.

    I love you, Madeleine.
    Hate, God.

(This is how I treat my friends, he said to one great saint.
No wonder you have so few of them, Lord, she replied.)

    I cannot turn the other cheek
    It takes all the strength I have
    To keep my fist from hitting back
    the soldiers shot the baby
    the little boys trample the old woman
    the gutters are filled with groans
    while pleasure seekers knock each other down
    in order to get their tickets stamped first.

I'm turning in my ticket
and my letter of introduction.
You're supposed to do the knocking. Why do you burst
my heart?

    How can I write you
    to tell you that I'm angry
    when I've been given the wrong address
    and I don't even know your real name?

I take hammer and nails
and tack my message on two crossed pieces of wood:

    Dear God
    is it too much to ask you
    to bother to be?
    Just show your hindquarters
    and let me hear you roar.


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