All Becoming Has Needed Me
When our sight fell from you, Beloved,
and we gazed instead
upon the hard edge of the mind,
our long communion ended.
Our daily sacrament receded from us.
To fill the yawning chasm
we make ever more monotonous noise,
so that our crying whir fills the sky.
Yet some mornings when I sit silent
you come alive.
And I know you exist
in your secret cave,
which is not so much secret
to be unwrapped by my looking.
You continue on, braiding life
through branches and beaks,
and when I taste this communion,
we becomes alive again.
Neither of us is alone
gazing at the streaked markings
hurtling across the sky.
Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, Poem I, 1
Only With Our Doing Can We Grasp You
I will take you in my hands
today, Beloved, and love you
as you grow in the ground.
I will touch your soft fur,
and your warm lover’s skin
in the morning sheets.
In the afternoon,
I will sit within you
as light floods the garden.
And the bees, loving the flowers,
will be praised by my eyes.
If I could stitch the world together
with my loving, as do the bees,
I would, my Beloved, I would.
I would live like this:
as though my every touch
kept the world alive,
knitted together in this graceful hum.
Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, Poem I, 51
We Will Not Be Herded Into Churches
That place sheltered you, Mother.
The flickering candles of prayer
settled upon you like the lace veil you wore.
Wherever you found a church
in your travels upon this blue green planet,
you settled into yourself, and were home.
I followed you as young mammals do,
copied your prayers,
holding my hands just so.
I pinned the veil upon my head,
and touched the holy water
making the sign of the cross —
forehead, belly, shoulder to shoulder.
Sometimes the music and ceremony
made me weep. Sometimes the holy presence
descended. Once your beloved Christ
settled next to me in a pew
and offered comfort. But
I could not remain in those walls
with the priests and their strictures.
I would never belong there
once the winds of love
broke me open.
Outside, Mother, I saw the sky.
I walked into the forest, and up
to great granite cliffs and hidden lakes.
At the edge of the ocean,
a brilliant sun descended into blue.
I walked to the waters and dipped my fingers.
Cool salt water, sudden to the touch.
I touched it to my self:
forehead, belly, shoulder to shoulder,
making the fourfold sign,
north, south, west, east,
a medicine wheel upon my body.
The great firey disc
blended to the sea,
and all around spirits shimmered:
earth, fire, water, air.
And I, oh Mother,
prayed as you once taught me,
kneeling low, the candles
flickering all around,
my head bowed
before the sandy altar.
Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, Poem II, 26
Let Every Pious Gesture Be Overarched
We walk among your jewels.
At earth’s center a molten fire
churns. Thousands of miles away
we inhabit the dazzling
skin of your being.
Thank you: it is lovely.
Your tall redwoods are home
to countless beings —
from my perch I watch them crawl
and flutter among you.
Do these high, majestic trees
cloak your loneliness
as you travel through
the dark expanse of space?
Or can it be
you have bejeweled yourself
because there is no other way
to be you, limitless essence
mirroring the stars?
Can it be that you gaze
at the glittering night sky,
and hearing such music,
can only surrender to it,
grow yet one more mountain,
one more tree?
Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, Poem I, 52
Have You Never Yearned
I wish your winds to unskin me.
That all my busy purposes
would fall from me
as from a ripe tree,
while I stand exposed,
hands empty, heart loosened,
like a tattered kite caught in your branches.
I wish you to unseat me
from the inherited chair
that teaches custom
while you are thrilling out the window,
great patches of green and light
heaving and outflinging with your passions.
Break the glass and shatter the frame.
Let me stand without walls.
Fling the song so huge
there can be no missing your glory.
Thrum me awake, unsheathe my eyes,
disarm my defenses. Leave me
nothing but surrender.
Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, Poem I, 49
But Now I See You
I’ve been listening, Beloved,
as you chirp and sing the morning
air, so lovely.
In the far distance
the sea crashes to shore.
Now you light the birch tree,
a wild amber miracle.
Across the way, the green-lit
feathers of the mourning dove
make a kind of ring,
stately and whole.
From the beginning of time,
my Beloved, the light has been
mirroring your glory —
and we grew eyes to drink you.
We emerged from your
millennia ago to become
this: your seers, whispering
awe among the birds and flowers.
Title from Rilke’s Book of Hours, Poem I, 60