Circular Church in Charleston Commissions Public Art by Poet Laureate

Circular Congregational Church in Charleston recently commissioned the South Caroline state poet laureate and church member Marjory Heath Wentworth to write a poem acknowledging our grief over the human loss caused by COVID-19. Rev. Jeremy Rutledge writes, “In the midst of everything else — our protests for Black lives, our celebration and commitment to Pride month, and our opposition to the symbols of white supremacy in our city (Calhoun may really be coming down!) — we want to bear witness to our grief.” He continues, “We want to provide a place for people to pause. Catch them on the sidewalk. Bear witness.”

One Hundred Thousand Names

Whether it is morning
And sunlight is seeping through
Overlapping oak branches
Bursting with bright leaves

Or late in the day, after
Rain has fallen and the scent
Of spring splashes across
The washed sky, emptied of clouds

And opening, you have arrived
At this sanctuary
Were the locked door is
Never closed to anyone.

Step into the circle
Of grace woven from many
Threads that bind us
Across time and place.

Let us mourn together
The thousands upon thousands
Who have perished, so many
Alone, so many afraid,

So far from the people
They loved most. Perhaps you,
Or someone you know: cousin,
Co-worker, neighbor, or friend.

One hundred thousand stories
Left to tell. One hundred thousand
Voices suddenly silent.
One hundred thousand names

Etched on the altars of our hearts.
Our grief is collective, tear
Stained and bright, blue
Like a wound or the wind

Wrapping itself around you.
As you step back into the world
Where the names of the lost
are tumbling through the sky.

by Marjory Wentworth, South Carolina Poet Laureate and member of Circular Congregational Church