Sonnets Inspired by Rilke’s Book of Hours

Exercise in writing a series of sonnets with Rilke’s first line in his Book of Hours:


The hour is striking so close above me—
after a leaving, moments grate
teeth into the side of the Mare, taste
whatever longing was left in her, blue
tangled, light-bursts, maybe. I know
Santiago feels haulted, heavy
up Hermit’s Peak, prayers, bell claps—
like his piebold’s hooves, breaking
the bones he rode, godspeed, toward light—
I know him, in my wondering
whether to eat the eye of the Mare
Eye, eye, eye! God—don’t look back—
Keep love inside you like this, he said
Nothing, guapa, has it’s tongue in you.


I live my life in widening circles,
called from the mountain—

Nothing, guapa, has it’s tongue in you—

Pine fur against back, I’d go there,
a child, closer to Light—

Santiago kept vigils to Mary, chanted
down in manure for his brother, Miguel,
that his bullets didn’t pierce the vortex.

But his heart, guapa! May it be eaten
by cattle in the field, he said. I know

I live my life circling one thing—
Hermit’s Peak, childhood, the Light.

God told me: I am the eye, eye, eye
Of the Mare in the storm, dying.


I have many brothers in the South
Santiago said, peeled root and mushrooms.

Everything gives body to Light!

My Miguel, bullet-eye,
Speak to me in tongue tangled
In the pine, hermano, hermano, O—
Bells, guapa, clap to you.

We took the Mare’s eyes,
Into a mountain-mouth—
Her hooves, broken, bent and I,
I know the worship-taste of Now—
Light-bursts, maybe, circle
Memory—mud-slick. Nothing
Speaks its tongue into me.


We must not portray you in king’s robes,
You, peak-toward-light, mountain-man,
hermit, hermano, O—

Now, though walking streets,
Though far from your singing,
I hear you call in city-bell.

Everything gives its body.

Santiago prayed to Mary
Chants into old rock—
Belly of the Mare, split
For moments like this—

Eye, eat the I — I

feel a tongue tangle in the street—
know Nothing leans, circles me.


I love the dark hours of my being—
Once, I passed St. Patrick’s at Mass
a mirror pressed to my face—
I held his hand. I know. What I wanted
Was this space, damp as a mountain-mouth—
In it, blue echoes, pressed to You, O
Hermano, brother, lover—quiet storm
Out, out, with the I of things. Now—
Nothing circles me. Keep pressed, love,
here—speak the tongue, tangled Santiago,
his fingers clapped. City-bells clap
what was meant for me, God, eye
eye of the Mare, in her circling—
whatever longing there—take.


You, God, who live next door—

Or under brush where the Mare slept,
keep your Light on the mountain,
On Santiago, praying. On Miguel’s
Bullet-eye. On blue-tangled Now—

Keep love inside you like this,
He said, Give your body.

Bone-bursts through pine, I know.
Cattle in the field circled me.

O Mary, he prayed, my brother’s
heart, hermano, dies in the mountain-
mouth, in the eye of God. Guapa—

His tongue in you, a peak-root.


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