Being the Question by Tracy Rittmueller

Welcome to Sunday Morning Lyricality, featuring a weekly song or poem by a Minnesota writer.

Yesterday the On Being Project’s weekly newsletter came with the subject, “A care package for uncertain times.” The Project’s editor, Kristin Lin, reminded me how important it is to “make space for rest and respite in the face of overwhelming events.” She quotes Joan Halifax: “When we are more stabilized, then we can face the world with more buoyancy. We have more resilience.”

This week, I offer as a small gift of caring, my improvisation of Rainer Maria Rilke’s beautiful “Sonnet 1” from his collection Sonnets to Orpheus. I shared this poem recently with Marge Lundeen, my friend and fellow Benedictine Oblate. She wrote back, “I have read this several times, being aware of my breathing.  My lungs feel cooler each time.”  

May the poems we share increase caring, grow resilience, and inspire hope.

Tracy Rittmueller

Being the Question
Tracy Rittmueller

an improvisational translation
of Rainer Maria Rilke’s Sonnet 1

Breath, you invisible poem,
continuing in and around my being,
circling the transposing cosmos. Balance 
where rhythmically I transpire.  

You are the singular wave, whose
gradually changing ocean I am;
you, the subject of all possible oceans — 

How many of your destinations existed
within me? Some exhalations leave home
like my own child.  

Do you know me, air, when you return,
you, my sleek sanctuary,
you, the greening surround of words?


Tracy Rittmueller is founder and Director of Lyricality. Her chapbook Relearning the Lullabies, was published by Heywood Press in 1994. In 2017, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily nominated her for a Pushcart award. She occasionally blogs about poetry and spirituality at

Read about Rainer Maria Rilke on

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