We were sitting in the old wicker chairs, having tea on the screened-in porch at Crosswicks Cottage, Madeleine L'Engle's home in Connecticut. It was a warm summer day in 2002, with the Litchfield Hills carving a silhouette against the late afternoon sky. Our conversation had slowed, become desultory, in the kind of relaxed manner of friends who know from long experience how to be together, what the other person is thinking, and for whom silence is comfortable, even comforting. I was knitting. Madeleine seemed preoccupied.
Suddenly she looked up and asked, "Is your journal there in your knitting bag?"
"Yes," I answered, rescuing my battered notebook from a tangle of yarn.
"Write this down for me, will you?"
Madeleine dictated this poem, speaking slowly enough for me to scribble it onto a blank page, but without a break in thought or rhythm.
Smudges the spill of light from the late day sun.
The ink will run if I cannot remember
To keep the darkness newso easily forgot.
The night provides more light than blatant day.
What can I write that keeps the morning fresh
That hid the young cat in the row of wheat?
The reaper lacks the eyes to hold him back;
Unseeing, his sharp blade carves the damning cut
That kills without a conscious, caring thought.
He does not hear the harsh cry of the cat;
And spurting blood, and life gone like the wind.
The event of the poem was clearly a vivid memory, one that had long been at work in Madeleine's subconscious, ever-fruitful mind. It was as if the image finally found an outlet, and a place on a page.
Re-reading this poem later in The Ordering of Love: New & Selected Poems, I kept discovering things." Like its human author, a good poem is layered, not revealed all at once.
For instance, ...1