Song of the South: A Bruised Reed

As I think of those who face times they must reach out with these prayers to pull them through, I cannot but help think of how broken and crushed some are.  It reminds me of this poem I wrote during my chaplain residency at UNC hospital.  I hope that, if the poem resonates with you, it grants you some comfort and healing.  At least, may it remind you that pain, suffering, and loss are a common human condition which can open us more deeply to each other.

Your progressive redneck preacher,



A bruised reed

bruised reed

“A bruised reed he will not crush” sounds around me

As the preacher slams shut her book

And, scarlet robed, looks up

Expectant for amens.


“A bruised reed he will not crush” echoes across my mind

Like whispers resounding off Linville Cavern walls

Whose vaulted chapel of a ceiling

Is as dim and cool as memory



“A bruised reed he will not crush” echoes in my ear,

My head shaking in disbelief

Thinking of grief stricken families at the edge of hope.

Of her wrinkled face, her arthritis twisted hands

Holding onto her high school love

As he drifts out of this world.

Of a young couple saying goodbye to

Their hoped for new born baby in its first gasps of life

Baptized with their tears for more than with water

The promises I speak echoing so hollow

Over a first hello and final goodbye which are one.


dying child 2

“A bruised reed he will not crush”

Buzzes around me like some petulant swarm in summer

While another couple, slightly more advanced in years,

Watch their child who ought to be playing ball with his brother

Or biking with his dad

lie breathless

Strapped to machines.

Memories flood me at the sight as I fight off tears

Of one dear to me when they lay

Monitors beeping overhead

Their life on a knife’s edge.



“A bruised reed he will not crush” settles in my soul

Which lies unsettled by a young woman’s cracking voice

Her eyes full of hurt

As she tells of her fear of men

Fear of being alone

Fear that his hands will bruise and batter her again.

I fight not to look away, later

Shaken by the quivering voice

Of a stubbly faced graying man

Reduce to trembling like a child

Overwhelmed by memories of what was done to him

Far too young.


robed priest

“A bruised reed he will not crush”

A part of me wants to holler back to the robed form over the altar

He may not crush them

But they sure are bent, and torn, and broken.

As am I.

Instead I sit still,

Listening to their voice resounding in the silence

Eyes locking with a face above the altar

His twisted form hung upon iron nails

And rest.


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