Tag Archives: Covid19

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’

VII

35

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

36

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

37

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

38

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.

39

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:

40

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.

If you are enjoying these posts, you might like, on occasion to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish.
Buy Me A Coffee

5 Comments

Filed under imagination, Poems

The Quarantine Quatrains: charity edition raises £5,511.81

A big thank you to everyone who bought a copy of the limited edition booklet of the   The Quarantine Quatrains, which I produced with the excellent artist Roger Wagner, and sold for The Care Workers Charity.

I’m happy to say that we raised over five and a half thousand for the charity! (£5,511.81 to be precise!) Emily, from CWC tells us: ‘this amount will have supported at least 11 care workers who have had to isolate as a result of Covid-19’

You may be interested to know that Roger is also going to produce a limited edition fine art print with four of the illustrations on it, signed by both of us, the first 10 of which will also be sold in aid of CWC. The print will be available at http://www.rogerwagner.co.uk/prints  from Advent Sunday.

Meantime, for those who may have missed it, the rest of this post gives you the chance to read all seven sections of the complete poem. As always you can hear me read each section of the poem by clicking on the ‘play’ button or the Roman numeral.

The Quarantine Quatrains: a new Rubaiyat

 I

1

Awake to what was once a busy day

When you would rush and hurry on your way

Snatch at your breakfast, start the grim commute

But time and tide have turned another way.

2

For now, like you, the day is yawning wide

And all its old events are set aside

It opens gently for you, takes its time

And holds for you -whatever you decide.

3

This morning’s light is brighter than it seems

Your room is raftered with its golden beams

The bowl of night was richly filled with sleep

And dawn’s left hand is holding all your dreams

4

Your mantle clock still sounds its silver chime

The empty page invites an idle rhyme

This quarantine has taken many things

But left you with the precious gift of time

5

Your time is all your own – yet not your own

The rose may open, or be overblown

So breathe in this day’s fragrance whilst you may

To each of us the date of death’s unknown.

6

Then settle at your desk, uncap your pen

And open the old manuscript again

The empty hours may tease you out of thought

Yet leave you with a poem now and then

II

 7

I think of old Khayyam who ‘stood before

The tavern shouting open up the door’

And wish I might carouse the night with him

Alas that such carousals are no more

8

I’ll keep the rules my country has imposed

My life, like my small garden, is enclosed,

But still I’ll raise a glass and pledge my friends

Although, for us, the tavern door is closed

9

For in my cellar, ranged in dusty rows,

Are sleeping poets waiting to disclose

Deep memories of St. Emillion

Whose vineyards reach to where the Dordogne flows

10

And with these wines I travel where I please

From Rhineland to the lofty Pyrenees,

I saunter though the chateaus of the loire,

Drawing the cork on any one of these.

11

So with the poets let me praise the vine

And pledge my absent friends in vintage wine

Sensing, sometimes, the savour at my lips

Speaks of a love both human and divine.

12

And when I come to taste my life’s last drop,

When all that flowed in me comes to a stop,

Then let me see my saviour pledge his love,

Come close to me, and help me drink the cup.

III

 13

Some days I am diverted by a call:

The soft computer chime that summons all

To show a face to faces that we meet

Mirages, empty mirrors on the wall.

14

Alas that all the friends we ever knew

Whose lives were fragrant and whose touch was true

Can only meet us on some little screen

Then zoom away with scarcely an adieu.

15

We share with them the little that we know

These galleries of ghosts set in a row

They flicker on the screen of life awhile

But some have left the meeting long ago.

16

We used to stroll together on the green

Who now divide the squares upon the screen,

The faces of our friends, so far apart

Tease us with tenderness that might have been

17

Some day we’ll break the bread, we’ll pour the wine

And meet and kiss and feast beneath the vine,

Till then we’ll sweeten solitude with verse

And yearn through pain, and watch each day decline.

IV

 18

Here in my garden hut, just on the brink

Of making some new song of all I think,

A sudden thrill and ripple of true song

Makes mockery of my poor pen and ink.

19

Beyond my hut a vivid glimpse of red:

A bright-eyed robin by the garden bed

Sings his mellifluous and liquid notes,

That utter more than all I’ve ever said.

20

Three busy sparrows soon take up the song,

Chaffinches and blue tits join the throng,

A pattern of bright music nets the air

And catches me off guard and makes me long,

21

Long for the joys that I have yet to sing

Long for the sudden flight, the lifting wing,

Long for the songs of summers yet to come

Long for the freedom future days may bring.

22

Though sorrow runs so deep, and our brief songs

Are burdened still with all the ills and wrongs

Of this sad exile, something in us sings,

Sings from that garden where the soul belongs.

V

 23

On Sunday morning, standing on my lawn

I bless the kindling of this Sabbath dawn

And do not seek withdrawal from the world

Since all the world itself is now withdrawn.

24

In Piccadilly Circus, still as stone,

Its central hub become a quiet zone,

Eros may loose his arrow as he will

The little love-god languishes alone.

25

From Marble Arch and all along The Mall

Only the pigeons still stand sentinel

And all the streets that thronged with rush and fret

Are soaked in silence almost magical.

26

No need to find the Isle of Innisfree,

Or seek with Brendan islands in the sea

For now the town and countryside alike

Partake the Sabbath rest of Galilee

27

And all that smudge of noise, the muffled roar

Of distant rush hour traffic is no more

The ‘roadway and the pavement grey’ both keep

A greater silence in the deep hearts core.

VI

28

They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The Courts where Jamshýd gloried and drank deep
:

But now in every corner of the world

The wild things flourish whilst the cities sleep

29

For when they see our influence abate

The banished creatures soon resume their state:

Blithe dolphins sport along the grand canal,

Coyotes call across the golden gate.

30

The grass grows green in every city square,

The little foxes, once so shy and rare,

Saunter our streets and boulevards by day

Whilst birds and insects throng the cleaner air

31

How soon the tide of nature has returned

How soon renew the forests that we burned

How soon they seed and repossess our streets

Those precious plants and animals we spurned.

32

Perhaps in all this crisis, all this pain,

This reassessment of our loss and gain

Nature rebukes our brief authority

Yet offers us the chance to start again

33

And this time with a new humility,

With chastened awe, and mutual courtesy;

To re-accept the unearned gift of life

With gratitude, with joy and charity.

34

Perhaps we’ll learn to live without so much

To nurture and to cherish, not to clutch,

And, if I’m spared, I’ll hold the years I’m given

With gentler tenure and a lighter touch.

VII

35

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

36

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

37

Behind each number one beloved 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

38

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.

39

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:

40

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.

If you have enjoyed this page here’s a little link that allows you to ‘buy me a coffee’ (or a beer if you prefer!)

Buy Me A Coffee

3 Comments

Filed under imagination

Behind Each Number, One Beloved Face: A Requiem for All Souls Day

Earlier this year I published a sequence called Quarantine Quatrains , whose seventh and final section was a requiem for those who have died during this pandemic and especially for the careworkers who gave their lives in looking after them. Today, as we keep All Souls Day, the day for remembering the dead with thanksgiving, I am posting this final part of my  poem again, and I am conscious that I do so at the beginning of a second lockdown and the rising wave of further illness, a wave which will once more call for heroism in the NHS and amongst careworkers. The Quarantine Quatrains was published in a limited edition to raise funds for The Careworker’s Charity. That edition is almost completely sold out, but if you find this post helpful perhaps you would like to donate to the Careworker’s charity via This Page, rather than buying me a coffee.

Once more we are confronted by 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 knows and loves and died for the people behind those numbers.

As usual you can hear me read the poem by clicking on the title or the play button

VII

35

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

36

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

37

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

38

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.

39

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:

40

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.

2 Comments

Filed under imagination, Poems

The Quarantine Quatrains: A Limited Edition for The Care Worker’s Charity!

One of Roger Wagner’s illustrations for The Quarantine Quatrains

I am delighted to announce the fruition of a a special project that the artist Roger Wagner and I have been working on together for the last couple of months. You will remember that I have been composing some ‘Quarantine Quatrains’ , in the metre of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, as a kind of ‘New Rubaiyat’ for our times. Happily this caught the attention of the excellent artist Roger Wagner, and, since the original Rubaiyat was so often published with beautiful illustrations, often exquisite Persian miniatures, Roger kindly agreed to make a beautiful set of seven ‘miniatures’, on Nepalese paper, illustrating and commenting on the text of my poem. As the final section of that poem is an elegy for the care workers who died of Covid themselves in the course of saving other people’s lives, we decided to dedicate this book to them and to donate our work on it, so that all profits, after the costs of printing, posting and packaging, could go to The Care Workers Charity. We engaged the Parchment Press in Oxford to produce a booklet with the poem and Roger’s illustrations beautifully reproduced, in a limited run of 6oo, numbered, and signed by both of us. By selling this at £15 inclusive of post and packaging (including postage to North America!), we hope to raise at least £5000 for The Careworker’s Charity.

So on this occasion, rather than buying me a coffee, why don’t you buy yourself this beautiful booklet, and at the same time support the care workers who are helping to get us all through this crisis. you can do so from this page on Roger’s website HERE 

Here, as a taster, is the final section of the poem with Roger’s beautiful illustration and embedded below that is a film, edited by Roger, in which the two of us discuss our inspiration for this project, and which also features a song setting of this section of the poem.

Roger Wagner’s Illustration of this final section

VII

35

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

36

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

37

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

38

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.

39

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:

40

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.

26 Comments

Filed under literature, paintings, Poems

Renewing Love Through Crisis: a Response to Psalm 30

Psalm 30 is one of those psalms that seem to spring to new life and speak to us directly as we read and pray it through during this Covid crisis. It is a psalm of recovery, certainly, but of a chastened recovery, a recovery that  hi-lights our utter dependence on God’s unfailing Love, rather than our own achievements or prosperity.

Everybody knows and loves verse 5 of this psalm:

For his wrath endureth but the twinkling of an eye, and in his pleasure is life: heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.

We rightly take comfort in that verse, but the key verses, for understanding this psalm are the three that follow:

And in my prosperity I said, I shall never be removed: thou, Lord, of thy goodness hast made my hill so strong.

Thou didst turn thy face from me: and I was troubled.

Then cried I unto thee, O Lord: and gat me to my Lord right humbly.

It is only after that humble return that the psalmist can finally say:

Thou hast turned my heaviness into joy: thou hast put off my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness.

So in responding to this psalm I felt that I could very much make its phrases my own and turn it into a prayer for our time.

As usual you can hear me read the poem by pressing the ‘play’ button if it appears, or else by clicking on the title. For the other poems in my psalm series type the word ‘psalm’ into the search box on the right.

XXX Exaltabo te, Domine

He gives us too, a voice to sing his praises,

So much the more because we were brought low

That we might know we have a God who raises

 

Up the lowly. Our old riches made us slow

To love you, slow to turn to you in praise

But sudden loss and crisis made us know

 

Our true dependence on your love. Our days

Of false security are gone, we fell

Into a pit of our own making. Raise

 

Us up again, each out of our own hell

And give us oil for ashes, joy for mourning

Restore us in your love and we will tell

 

Of how through our long night we heard your warning

And heeded you, and found your love again

How night withdrew and joy came in the morning.

 

If you are enjoying these posts, you might like, on occasion, (not every time of course!) to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish. But please do not feel any obligation!
Buy Me A Coffee

7 Comments

Filed under christianity, Poems

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

VII

35

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

36

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

37

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

38

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.

39

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:

40

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.

 

 

If you are enjoying these posts, you might like, on occasion to pop in and buy me a cup of coffee. Clicking on this banner will take you to a page where you can do so, if you wish.
Buy Me A Coffee

7 Comments

Filed under imagination, Poems