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    painting of a boy against a blue background

    Summer City

    A modern retelling of the story of Eutychus shows the divine bursting into the ordinariness of a humid summer day.

    By Madeleine L’Engle

    July 2, 2023
    • Richard Sommer

      Well written I had never envisioned that assembly to be so unholy as L’Engle describes. Who knows? Interesting angle. It does highlight the rancidity of sin and our need for Jesus.

    Never have we had it so hot.
    The children turn on hydrants
    and the gutters run with sweat and garbage
    and blood from the stupid sullen
    so-called law that is only brutes
    who feel the heat, too, I suppose,
    and suffer as we, being, like us, flesh.
    In the dark rats run over comfortless beds
    and vermin crawl across the kitchen tables
    and both come out on the street
    and talk hate, stirring us up
    like the putrid breeze
    and anger begins to stir in our sluggish veins
    and so we hate. We hate and are hungry for blood.
    Never have we had it so hot.
    One night a man came, stinking with sweat
    like the rest of us, but different,
    appearing, it seemed, from nowhere,
    not out of the woodwork like the others.
    So, for nothing better to do, we followed him
    up three flights of urine-stinking stairs
    to a room hot with many lights
    and bodies crowded too close together.
    I found no place to sit
    but by then I was curious
    and what else was there to do?
    I climbed over steaming bodies
    and found a seat on a paint-peeling sill
    of an open window. He’d been talking awhile,
    the man. I came in the middle
    like walking into a movie and trying to guess
    what must have gone on in the beginning
    and missing things because of not knowing
    what went on before. Why did I stay to listen?
    He was ugly and I couldn’t figure out his angle.
    He talked about some other man he loved
    and when I jeered somebody said: shut up.
    So I just stayed there in the open window.
    I was tired and groggy from heat, and so I fell,
    first asleep, and then, as he was long talking,
    right out the sooty window, three floors down
    onto the street. Well, it killed me:
    I’m not kidding. I was dead. Then this man
    rushed down the stairs, they tell me,
    and they were crowding around me and shouting
    and someone said call an ambulance,
    and someone else (wanting a fight) said call the cops
    and this man pushed his way through the mob
    and flung himself on me and held me in his arms
    close and warm, and told them not to worry
    (though nobody gave a damn, it was just
    something to get noisy about).
    Then I sat up as though I had been asleep
    and all I felt was hungry
    so I walked back up those three putrid flights
    of stairs and someone found some bread and cheese
    and I ate, and drank some wine
    and someone talked about the other men, the one
    I’d jeered about, and then another guy called Lazarus,
    and I didn’t understand. I only knew
    there was a difference in the room and if we went
    back on the streets on stifling nights and listened
    to the screams of hate and kill
    there’d be no answering fury in my blood.
    There was another way somewhere for me to find,
    and this squat, ugly man,
    talking amidst the filth, was showing me
    although I didn’t understand.
    We talked a long while, even till break of day,
    and then he went. And I was made alive
    and not a little comforted.

    painting of a boy against a blue background

    Janet Pedersen, Boy Painting, 2018, oil on canvas. Used by permission.

    Read the story of Eutychus in Acts 20:7–12.

    Source: “Summer City” from The Ordering of Love: The New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L’engle by Madeleine L’Engle, copyright © 2005 by Crosswicks, Ltd. Used by permission of WaterBrook Multnomah, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

    Contributed By MadeleineLengle Madeleine L’Engle

    Madeleine L’Engle (1918–2007) was an American author, essayist, and poet who wrote about Christianity, science, and art.

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