by Christine Valters Paintner
The old man hobbles down the road
toward the monastery gate,
rests on a roadside stone,
hears clip-clopping of hooves approach
and his faithful companion arrive.
The horse nuzzles Columba’s shoulder,
shudders all down his white length
eyes glisten round and brown,
great teardrops pool and drop
sounding like rainfall.
Columba rests his forehead
against the horse’s broad skull,
closes his eyes and each imagines
the other, galloping together across
heather and buttercups.
The horse knows his dear friend
will soon be leaving and mourns
this coming loss, his hoof
scrapes the ground, tries to write
a word of goodbye,
then takes wildflowers in his teeth,
extends them to the saint, as if to say
his life was full of beauty and color,
but the petals are already wilting
in the summer sun.
The wisdom of the old sages rings,
“remember you will die” and on another day
this would prompt Columba to celebrate
the gift of a new morning, but today
death is as close as the horse’s warm nostrils,
he knows everything must
come to an end, even this love,
Columba rests there a long while
breathing in scent of fur and fields,
lets his cloak be soaked with tears.
Christine Valters Paintner is a Benedictine oblate living in Galway, Ireland with her husband where they lead pilgrimages to sacred places. She is the author of twelve books of nonfiction on contemplative practice and the arts and her poems have been published in journals in the U.S. and Ireland including Tiferet, Anchor, Presence, Spiritus, and U.S. Catholic. Her first collection of poems, Dreaming of Stones, was published by Paraclete Press. Her latest poetry collection is “The Wisdom of Wild Grace” from Paraclete Press. You can find more of her writing and poetry at AbbeyoftheArts.com.