As I reflect on the cost of the breakdown of our sense of interconnection with others and with the earth, I can’t but help remember my time of chaplain training, first at WakeMed and then UNC hospitals. While at both I was brought face to face with the gripping poverty our economic system and very broken mental health system produces here in the south-land.
At WakeMed I was able to serve as an urban ministries chaplain for my clinical unit, serving at Interact domestic violence shelter and the Wake Urban Ministries Men’s Shelter. At UNC, among other areas, I focused on the psychiatric floors often working with people dealing with addiction issues or mental health concerns to whom our very fractured system was a failure.
I think I need to find a better title for it, but the following poem I wrote is an expression of the heartache I saw on witnessing the ways in which our failures to live as if we are interconnected with each other in our society cause pain.
It is not my strongest poem for sure, but I hope it opens up insight. And, please, if you have a good name suggestion, let me know.
Your progressive redneck preacher,
Psalms from the Psych Floor
“O come, o come, deliver me,”
cried those under Pharoah’s lash.
Their hearts longed to soar free
with eagle-feathers bright and brash.
Staff raised high, Israel did see,
with mighty ocean crash
the flaming light of liberty
their backs freed from burning lash.
Like waves I hear this cry still roar
echoing in many deserted hall
lined with cots for the homeless poor
abandoned by those called great and tall
whose money moved to distant shores
when profits began to fall.
“Deliver” echoes still in whispering call
where others lie, victims of a hidden war.
Their broken bodies writhe in withdrawal
from poisons that trap them like iron doors
and wrap their minds in darkling pall.
“Deliver” cries children from other homes
whose minds and bodies lie broken by neglect.
Their hearts bear wounds and scars like broken bones
that will not set but must lay wrecked
uncertain for minds what healing comes.
Oh God, who set old Israel free and yet brightens our sky
what light in such shadows can you bring
what freedom shine in their eyes.
“Deliver, Oh deliver,” their stories sing,
and I cannot help but question why
and what shape will we see rise on morning’s wings
in answer to their ceaseless cry.