Love Poems to GOd
For baritone voice and violoncello, Love Poems to God is a setting of two selections from R.M. Rilke’s Book of Hours which is subtitled, “Love Poems to God.” The Book of Hours is a collection of poems by Rilke that is in three “books”: the Book of Monastic Life, the Book of Pilgrimage, and the Book of Poverty and Death.
This composition is just two poems, one from the Book of Monastic Life, and one from the Book of Pilgrimage. In both instances I felt that Rilke is contemplating aloud, or in writing, his own mortality, his morality, and his humanity. This piece was written in collaboration with the commissioners, Hannah Gallagher and Joel Balzun for whom it is also dedicated.
(I. Monastic Life)
I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.
I circle around God
around the primordial tower.
I've been circling for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm or a great song?
I am praying again, Awesome One.
You hear me again, as words
from the depths of me
rush toward you in the wind.
I've been scattered in pieces,
torn by conflict,
mocked by laughter,
washed down in drink.
In alleyways I sweep myself up
out of garbage and broken glass.
With my half mouth I stammer you,
who are eternal in your symmetry.
I lift to you my half-hands
in wordless beseeching, that I may find again
the eyes with which I once beheld you.
I am a house gutted by fire
where only the guilty sometimes sleep
before the punishment that devours them
hounds them out into the open.
I am a city by the sea
sinking into a toxic tide.
I am strange to myself, as though someone unknown
had poisoned my mother as she carried me.
It's here in all the pieces of my shame
that now I find myself again.
I yearn to belong to something,
to be contained in an all-embracing mind that sees me
as a single thing.
I yearn to be held in the great hands of your heart-
oh let them take me now.
Into them I place these fragments, my life,
and you, God - spend them however you want.