Mass in Quarantine by Tania Runyan

Mass in Quarantine | Tania Runyan


            —Father Giuseppe Corbari, Saints Quirico
                        and Giulitta parish, Robbiano, Italy 

You didn’t want to say Mass alone, 
so you taped a hundred photos to the pews. 
These faces were made to be known: 

the eyes, mustaches, and cheekbones 
for years settling on your dreams like dew. 
You didn’t want to say Mass alone. 

And though now you have to imagine the cologne, 
the children scuffling in their restless stew, 
the faces are still touched and known 

from old snapshots alongside hasty phone 
selfies sent at your plea, your cue 
that you didn’t want to celebrate Mass alone. 

This morning, a woman’s hair like a lodestone 
caught the stained glass Blessed Virgin’s blue. 
These faces were made to be known, 

regardless of how far the virus has flown. 
You’re surprised this story has swept the news. 
You just didn’t want to say Mass alone 
without the faces you’ve always known.

Tania Runyan is the author of the poetry collections What Will Soon Take Place, Second Sky, A Thousand Vessels, Simple Weight, and Delicious Air. Her guides How to Read a Poem, How to Write a Poem, and How to Write a Form Poem are used in classrooms across the country. Her poems have appeared in many publications, including Poetry, Image, Indiana Review, Atlanta Review, and The Christian Century. Tania was awarded an NEA Literature Fellowship in 2011.