Christine Valters Paintner

Christine Valters Paintner is an American poet living in Galway, Ireland and the author of twelve books of nonfiction and two collections of poems: Dreaming of Stones (2019) and The Wisdom of Wild Grace, both from Paraclete Press. Her poems have appeared in several journals in North America, UK, and Ireland including Tales from the Forest, Crannog, Stinging Fly, The Blue Nib, Headstuff, The Galway Review, Boyne Berries, impspired, Bangor Journal, Tiferet, Spiritus, Presence, and Anchor. You can find more of her writing and poetry at AbbeyoftheArts.com.

Where has the wild woman gone?

I have seen her bathing 
in the lake, long hair drying 
in the breeze. She sits 
on a stone at the water’s edge 
for hours and does nothing. 
Her teeth have bits of dandelion 
leaf stuck between them. She still 
composes those poems you are 
so fond of, but she sings them 
into the air, finds words tracked 
across sky in cloud and star. Each tree,
under her gaze, becomes its own 
poem. She waits for you there,
knowing there is nothing but time.

She is the one you left behind when you
traded your bark for papers, your 
stones for pens, and the sun’s 
pilgrimage across the horizon 
for your calendar with its tidy
color-coded boxes.

When you wake from a dream 
one morning and smell 
oak leaves dissolving into 
the forest floor, you know this 
is a love letter from her to you. 

Ludwig

My father always traced the family tree
to you, showing our relation to the Wittgensteins.
When I majored in philosophy in college 
he thought it was perfect,though I didn’t study you
at the time, turned off by logic.

At midlife I moved to Vienna, 
then because of bureaucracy’s coldness
moved on to the west of Ireland
to find solace by the Atlantic 
and the sea’s wild foam, to get my bearings,
not giving you another thought
until one day I learned that you 
were drawn here to, had lived among
those granite mountains just an hour’s drive
from me at the mouth of Killary fjord.

You called Connemara “the last pool 
of darkness,” the only place you could 
think clearly. Suddenly I knew 
how I had also ended up here, 
a lover of wild silence,
of winter’s dark stillness, a compass 
in my blood, and now I can’t stop 
thinking of you.

I’ve spent days in the cottage next door
to where you lived until I could hear 
the mountain outside my window
whisper secrets about you.
I traveled to Prague to visit the graves 
of rabbis, ancestors we share.
I journeyed to Norway to stand 
by the cottage you built across the lake
sitting in shadows and quiet
and visited the house in Vienna you designed,
so spare it felt like walking into your mind.

In private moments I started calling 
you cousin Ludwig. I want to know 
how you endured all those times 
you wanted to leave this life, 
the people you loved. I want to know
as if my life depended on it,
like someone lost might search 
for a map or a star. 

A Letter to My Adolescent Self

“listen I love you joy is coming” —Kim Addonizio

Listen, I know life right now
feels like heartache 
is your mother tongue,
parents who live in the shadows,
you stumbling down 
the dark corridors of youth 
trying all the locked doors
and knobs breaking off in your hands.

I won’t promise this heartache ends.
You’ll lose people you love: death, betrayal,
a slow fade. Some will dissolve
like salt on the tongue. There will be moments
you’re sure you are drowning, arms flailing,

but sometimes your frantic waving
will summon a joy you never knew could exist
arriving like an elephant emerging
from a still forest or a hatching egg placed
in your palm, and you will know delight
is not an afterthought, nor a luxury,
but an amaryllis opening the first petal,
its red tongue whispering secrets
of all the loves it has ever known.

3 thoughts on “Christine Valters Paintner

  1. All three poems are lovely. “Where has the wild woman gone” just took my breath away. Thank you for your work, such a gift.

    Like

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