Behind Each Number, One Belovèd Face

Listening, to the radio I was  horrified to hear that the daily death toll from Corona was once more exceeding a thousand. It was a strange and terrible deja vu of listening to the radio last Spring, an experience which prompted this poem and this post, indeed this prayer. I am reposting it today in case anyone might find comfort in these words, or a voice for their own prayers:

‘ 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

7 responses to “Behind Each Number, One Belovèd Face

  1. All we can do is pray. Pray for humanity. Stay safe!

  2. P.s – This is beautifully recited!

  3. John Kiemele

    Dear Fr. Guite…you have been an artesian spring of grace and light and hope during this past year or so that I have had the blessing of following you. A couple of years ago, a worship leader in a church I was visiting for Lent quoted one of your poems during vespers and it penetrated my soul. I jotted your name on my program and upon returning home found you online and yes instantly subscribed. I have been sipping and savoring your poetic prayers ever since. Please receive my thanks, with all the deep echoing of my soul. This poem shared today is profound and timely yet again…it begs me pause and ponder yet again…and so I want to say THANK YOU yet again for another timely opportunity to grab my tea cup and tune into the Divine. May Christ’s close holding be our eternal good. Stay well. Peace, John

    *Human. Kind. Be both.*

    • malcolmguite

      Many thanks for this. This has appeared as a comment on my blog rather than an email to me. So I will edit out your address

  4. Pingback: numbers and the dying – Nicholas H. Dalbey

  5. Nicholas

    Thank you for this: “..only the exercise of compassionate imagination can give us even a glimpse of the harrowing personal stories behind each one.”

    I’ve not thought about imagination in terms of compassion before. It’s clearly lacking not just in society as a whole, but in myself. Your poetry, I hope, will continue to stir up a compassionate imagination in all of us.

    Under the Mercy–

  6. Pingback: Linkathon! - Phoenix Preacher

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