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 you pause you can hear the whispered longings and wailings carried across this threshold, the desperate cries for healing, the shouts of praise, the stones are keepers of these prayers, and to stand there is to feel your heart both leap and break all at once. The roof is gone which means this place is no longer shielded from the elements but holds its mouth up to catch raindrops on the tongue, sunlight pours down and fills the space with gold. The cawing of rooks nesting echo off the walls, nettles grow in corners, dandelions in cracks, and you see this place is not a ruin, is not empty, and you offer up a prayer, not certain who is listening, but knowing this prayer does not live alone, but finds a place nestled among birds and spirits and growing things.
Standing at My Mother’s Grave
She is a constellation, at first only the thick blackness is visible, a heavy wool blanket I want to throw off myself. if only I could move but slowly my eyes adjust and all those points of light emerge and I see patterns and I am like a pioneer making discoveries in the dark: a bear, an archer, a lover, and I remember how stars explode and vanish a million miles away while their light travels and lingers for lifetimes.
I Dream of My Mother
We drive along the California coast highway in a shiny red convertible with room for your wheelchair in back. You tell me to drive because you want to take in the view. You hold up a pink pinwheel you’ve brought and giggle as it twirls round in summer wind. You point at things — a pelican, a hot air balloon, a kite — and I remind you I’m driving so my eyes stay fixed on the road. I catch a glimpse of you from the corner of my eye, your big sunglasses, silk scarf fluttering, pomegranate lips revealing coffee-stained teeth. You say something about being like Thelma and Louise and I remind you it doesn’t end well for them. I look in the rearview mirror. My eyes look tired and I can see the sun setting, the orange globe of light slowly disappears from view.