BLESSED ARE THE MERCIFUL Amish schoolhouse shooting, Nickel Mines, PA I didn't trust their forgiveness. Before the blood cooled on the schoolhouse floor they held the killer's widow in their arms, raised money for his children, lined his grave site with a row of patient horses. Somewhere in town there had to be a father splitting a trunk and imagining the crush of the murderer's skull. There had to be a mother hurling a Bible at the wall that received her prayers. Or is it just the flash and noise of my own life that primes me for anger? Does scrolling through playlists in traffic fill the spaces in my mind reserved for grace? Forgiveness requires imagination. Eye for an eye is efficient. For the man brought chains. He brought wires, eyehooks and boards. He brought a bag of candles and lubricant and secured little girls with plastic ties. Two sisters begged to be shot first to spare the others. He shot them first. Then the rest. One child with twenty-four bullets. Perhaps they know something I don't, something to do with the morning rising over an open field. The fathers receive the meadowlark, the swallowtail, the good corn rising into the fog. The mothers ride their carriages into town, accepting the rumbles of the stony road, tripping into the rough hands of God. BLESSED ARE THOSE WHO MOURN Blessed are you, woman, doubled over in the bathroom stall awaiting your miscarried child. Blessed are you, weeping constellations of all-night vigils on the shot-up university campus. Blessed are you, soldier, rubbing the phantom of your amputated leg, and you, small boy, huddled in the closet with a handprint on your face—bless you. Bless the vice in your stomach, your throat stripped raw from crying, the shoes you fling across the room. Bless the rain you curse for falling so easily outside your window, the chair you collapse in after a night of pacing the halls. Bless the food you cannot eat, the hair you cannot wash, the God you cannot pray to. Bless you who want to forget it ever happened but feel the grave rising to asphyxiate your heart. Bless you who want to dive into the grave and feel nothing but the simple weight of the earth. Blessed are you who damn these words, who send them to hell with your sorrows. Blessed, yes, even you. BLESSED ARE THE MEEK She is all we learn to forget, this woman approaching the edge of the health club pool. She wears her hair like laundry lint. Faded Lycra toucans and orchids sag beneath her nipples. I imagine her going home to dump a can of Campbell's in a casserole while her husband barks orders from the football chair. She moves through the house without consequence, straightening an old lighthouse cross stitch in the hallway, rifling through coupons for half-price dinners and oil changes. But this morning, she is here. Her eyes take in the narrow lane of water as if it were the river of an ancient civilization and she plans to wrap her arms and legs around time itself. She twists at the waist, stretches her mottled fingers to the rising dough of her feet. She catches my stare for a moment, arches her brows and dives,
gliding and breathing, gliding and breathing.
SARAH CONSIDERS THE STARS
"He took [Abraham] outside and said, 'Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.' Then he said to him, 'So shall your offspring be.'"–Genesis 15:5
After Abraham fell asleep, she pulled her cloak around her shoulders and walked out to stare at the night. Stars collected in the crevices of mountains. They spilled into the oak groves and clung to the branches. And when she spread her hands to the sky, they rested in the sags of flesh between her fingers. The world is dripping with stars, she thought, and still not one belongs to me. She considered hating them. She considered wishing a heavenly storm to drown them. But she only murmured, I am through and walked off, holding a sudden sharpness in her side, as if a star had dislodged there, and turning and scraping and shining its path, settled into the bare sky of her body.
Runyan's poems have appeared in Poetry,
Atlanta Review, Indiana Review, The Christian Century, Willow Springs, Southern
Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, and A Fine Frenzy: Poets Respond to
Shakespeare.Her chapbook, Delicious Air, was awarded the 2007 Book of the Year Citation by the Conference on Christianity
and Literature. Her first full-length collection of poetry will be published by
WordFarm in 2011. When not writing, Tania spends her days tutoring high school
students, playing various instruments, and chasing three kids around the house.
Find Tania online at www.TaniaRunyan.com.