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.
If I could peer far enough down a robin’s pulsing throat, would I see notes piled there waiting to be flung into freshness of morning? If I close my eyes and burrow my face into peony’s petals, would I discover the source of its scent, a sacred offering? Can I plunge inside and find a lifetime of words spooled tightly inside my heart ready for a tug? If I dig beneath the bedrock will I find love there, solid like iron or does it flow like magma filling in all of the empty spaces?
I want to be the kind of woman
(after Jenni Fagan) I want to be the kind of woman who milks goats each morning and drinks straight from the bucket - who isn’t afraid to reach into the hive. I want to be the kind of woman who lies down in winter, in the brown mulch of leaves and sleeps until spring who loves the generous folds of her body. I want to be the kind of woman who has found her sealskin, who would cross oceans to make her dead father love her once again. I want to be the kind of woman who can name hyssop, nettle, lady’s mantle and knows all their healing uses. I want to be the kind of woman who goes out under the night sky to chant with owls and wolves, who falls more in love each day with her husband, her little dog, her life. I want to be the kind of woman who knows she is daughter of sunlight and mud who knows that her grandmothers are still singing her name.
To willingly descend the long dark staircase is an act of trust that something worthwhile waits for you there in the cellar with its cobwebbed boxes piled high with discarded things, the scent of a mouse long dead and naphthalene balls. Some days you clamber around, eyes not yet adjusted to this night territory, so everything you bump startles you. But some days your pupils widen and you wander in amazement, seeing just how much light is contained in darkness, like stones shimmering in moonlight, and rather than return with a pile of them, you choose one to carry back up the stairs, back into the comfort of your home, where this tiny gift splits open the foundation. You look out where the window once was, and instead of the brick wall of the house next door, you realize you can now see to the horizon.