With the release of the new move, “A Wrinkle in Time,” writer Madeleine L’Engle has come back into the cultural consciousness. Her Newbery award-winning book was first published when I was at an impressionable age, and helped fuel both my imagination and love of reading.
I haven’t seen the movie, but I understand that despite a strong cast headed by Oprah Winfrey, it is not doing particularly well at the box office. As I write this it has a long way to go to earn back the more than $100 million it took to produce.
L’Engle’s book was criticized for its liberal treatment of religious themes back in the 1960s. Ironically, this year’s movie has been criticized for not sticking closely enough to the book and watering it down its Christian references even further.
But I digress.
Today, in one of my used bookstore haunts, I was intrigued to discover a slender book of verse by L’Engle, entitled “The Weather of the Heart.” I hadn’t realized she also had written poetry.
And what a discovery! Chock full of verse about wonder and love and death and faith.
But the one that really jumped out at me was all too human, and startling in its honesty. Written to her husband while they were apart, it recounted an affair averted. It’s hard to say just how close she came, but because the poem is so honest, it results in a reaffirmation and celebration of fidelity.
It helps to understand the poem to know that L’Engle’s husband, Hugh Franklin, was a stage and television actor.
L’Engle’s poem doesn’t seem to be published on the internet, so I will set it down for you here. It is inspiring on many levels.
In what, love, does fidelity consist?
I will be true to you of course.
My body’s needs I can resist,
Come back to you without remorse.
And you, behind the footlight’s lure,
Kissing an actress on the stage,
Will leave her presence there, I’m sure,
As I my people on the page.
And yet–I love you, darling, yet
I sat with someone at a table
And gloried in our minds that met
As sometimes stranger’ minds are able
To leap the bounds of times and spaces
And find, in sharing wine and bread
And light in one another’s faces
And in the words that each has said
An intercourse so intimate
It shook me deeply, to the core,
I said good-night, for it was late,
We parted at my hotel door
And I went in, turned down the bed
And took my bath and thought of you
Leaving the theatre with light tread
And going off, as you should do,
To rest, relax, and eat and talk–
And I lie there and wonder who
Will wander with you as you walk
and what you both will say and do …
We may not love in emptiness,
We married in a peopled place;
The vows we made enrich and bless
The smile on every stranger’s face.
And all the years that we have spent
Give the joy that makes me able
To love and laugh with sacrament
Across a strange and distant table.
No matter where I am, you are,
We two are one and bread is broken
And laughter shared both near and far
Deepens the promises once spoken
And strengthens our fidelity
Although I cannot tell you how,
But I rejoice in mystery
And rest upon our marriage vow.