Christine Valters Paintner; What She Does Not Know

What She Does Not Know

(for unsuspecting Selkies everywhere)


She does not know there is a reason

she always feels out of place

her life rigid and small, like living in a doll’s house

a marriage more trap than longing

and when she chokes on courtesy and convention

the salt which burns her throat is not just tears.


She does not know that when she stands 

on the sea’s wild edge and can finally

breathe, dream, weep,

her body strains forward

seawater in her veins, barnacles behind her knees 

waves lap her ankles, thighs, torso, her cold breasts.


She does not know that when she swims 

in that wide expanse and the swell 

pulls her under, she does not need to struggle, 

the sea has been longing for her as well –

everyone onshore aghast –

her daughter will grieve and wail and awaken 

from dreams of the deep dark water also calling her name.



Christine Valters Paintner is an American poet and writer living in Galway,
Ireland. She is the author of eleven books of nonfiction on creative process and
contemplative practice and her poems have been published in several journals
and websites including Artis Natura, The Blue Nib, The Galway Review, Boyne
Berries, Headstuff, Skylight 47, Crannog, North West Words, Spiritus Journal,
Tiferet, Anchor, Presence Journal of Spiritual Direction, ARTS, U.S. Catholic, and
forthcoming in the Anglican Theological Review. Her first collection, Dreaming
of Stones, will be published by Paraclete Press in 2019. You can find more of her
writing and poetry at


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