Poetry, VOLUME 7

Tania Runyan – Blessed are the Merciful [Poem]



I read this beautiful poem at our church service at Englewood yesterday.

(Indianapolis folks: We will be hosting an event with Tania Runyan on this Thursday evening, May 22.  You won’t want to miss it!)


Blessed Are The Merciful
Tania Runyan

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.


This poem is found in the collection [easyazon_link asin=”0982861249″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”douloschristo-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Simple Weight[/easyazon_link] by Tania Runyan.  Reprinted here with permission.

Image Credit: Creative Commons License, via Wikimedia Commons.


C. Christopher Smith is the founding editor of The Englewood Review of Books. He is also author of a number of books, including most recently How the Body of Christ Talks: Recovering the Practice of Conversation in the Church (Brazos Press, 2019). Connect with him online at: C-Christopher-Smith.com

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  1. Wow, this is an amazing poem and provides words for the thoughts of my own soul. thank you for sharing

  2. Jody Ohlsen Collins

    Tania, in an odd sorta time warp way, my husband and I are currently reading ‘One Light Still Shines’ written by the woman whose husband killed the girls in that school in Nickel Mines. It is the most amazing story of God’s power of forgiveness and redemption through the Amish families of all those girls.

    Your words are powerful, too, as always.