Songs of the South: Psalms from the Psych Floor

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.

homeless in jesus arms


“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.


Child Abuse Statistics

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.






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