Behind Each Number, One Belovèd Face

I am thinking of my American friends today as the tragic death-toll from the virus there passes 100,000. These are mind numbing numbers and only the exercise of compassionate imagination can give us even a glimpse of the harrowing personal stories behind each one. When I began to hear our statistics mount on our own evening radio news, I found myself again and again in prayer, knowing that even though I only heard the numbers, God knew and loved and died for the people behind those numbers.

All this found its way into the concluding section of my Quarantine Quatrains which I am posting here as a poem on its own



At close of day I hear the gentle rain

Whilst experts on the radio explain

Mind-numbing numbers, rising by the day,

Cyphers of unimaginable pain


Each evening they announce the deadly toll

And patient voices calmly call the roll

I hear the numbers, cannot know the names

Behind each number, mind and heart and soul


Behind each number one belovèd face

A light in life whom no-one can replace,

Leaves on this world a signature, a trace,

A gleaning and a memory of grace


All loved and loving, carried to the grave

The ones whom every effort could not save

Amongst them all those carers whose strong love

Bought life for others with the lives they gave.


The sun sets and I find myself in prayer

Lifting aloft the sorrow that we share

Feeling for words of hope amidst despair

I voice my vespers through the quiet air:


O Christ who suffers with us, hold us close,

Deep in the secret garden of the rose,

Raise over us the banner of your love

And raise us up beyond our last repose.



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Filed under imagination, Poems

10 responses to “Behind Each Number, One Belovèd Face

  1. martinlambourne

    Just thanks

  2. Sheila Eichert

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPhone

  3. Malcolm, this is so beautiful. Thank you seems inadequate but will suffice I hope. Love your writings – please don’t stop!

  4. Pingback: Now, Murder, Rioting and Looting in a Pandemic - Autumn's Garden

  5. Barbara Parry

    We lost a beloved Bible study teacher last week who repeatedly reminded us of Paul Tillich’s admonition to be rooted in God in the age of anxiety, that we demonstrate our love of God by our care for the poor, and that lack of concern for the poor often precedes a nation’s downfall. Miss him.

  6. Ann Phillips

    Love your poems, Malcolm. They resonate on every level and bring us closer to Jesus’ loving heart.

  7. Pingback: Other People’s Words Episode 7: “Behind Each Number, One Beloved Face,” by Malcolm Guite

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