Christine Valters Paintner is an American poet and writer living in Galway, Ireland. She is the author of nine books of nonfiction on monastic spirituality, creative process, and contemplative practice and has been published in a variety of journals including Presence, Weavings, The Way, and the American Benedictine Review. Christine has been shortlisted twice for the Over the Edge New Writer of the Year Award.
I want to climb the holy mountain
ascend over weight of stone
and force of gravity, follow the
rise of a wide and cracked earth
toward eternal sky,
measured steps across the sharp path,
rest often to catch my heavy breath.
I want to hear the silence of stone and stars,
lie back on granite’s steep rise
face to silver sky’s glittering points
where I can taste the galaxies
on my tongue, communion of fire,
then stand on the summit and
look out at the laboring world.
I want to witness earth’s slow turning
with early light brushing over me,
a hundred hues
of grey, pink, gold,
speckles of Jackson Pollock light,
then ribbons of mist floating
like white streamers of surrender.
I want to look back down the trail
as if over my past, forgive a thousand tiny
and tremendous transgressions
because now all that matters
is how small I feel under the sky,
even the sparrowhawk takes no notice of me,
how enlarged I feel by knowing this smallness.
I want to be like St. Patrick,
climb the holy mountain full of
promise and direction and knowing,
forty days of fasting aloft among clouds
until my body no longer hungers
and something inside is satisfied
and my restless heart says here,
no longer dreaming of other peaks.
Last night I dreamt I was
flying, slow circles though space,
ascending north to see polar bears
with their curls of breath and then
rainbow ribbons spreading across sky,
stitching stars together.
I swooped and swirled through
orange canyons, over blue peaks,
inhaling the world
like freshly plucked blossoms.
Last night I dreamt I was spying
on the life I thought I wanted,
the grand sweep of space,
flinging myself out to the very edges,
climbing from silver day to flushed evening,
feeling the pulsing stretch of wingspan.
Last night I dreamt I was crying,
unbearable untethered floating freedom,
seeing my shadow cast far below.
I ached for you out of reach,
I soared expecting a symphony of spheres,
but I just missed your song.
Last night I awakened from a dream
and your spine was pressed against mine,
the weighted warmth of blankets,
my foot extended to catch the coolness,
dawn light distilled,
summoning forth the world.
I thought of the hedgerows outside our door
heavy with herbs,
and rain murmuring on the grass.
Sometimes I look up and see trails
of myself traversing the sky.
But mostly I am grateful for gravity.
Grateful for all that keeps me in your orbit.