Bad Day

I know where my coffee went; Its trail scalds
Do you like my shirt?
It’s java scent.

In the mirror stands a man whose razor missed its target
in two important places—one under each nostril
the reflection reveals short blond hair combed to one side, suggesting an Adolf-like silhouette ‘stache I’ll bet!
My left big toe bulbs with gout, and my son took the car with my cane.

Regret begets regret. What a bad day!

There’s a code in Emergency
and I’m too slow hobbling, bobbling, wobbling down a short hallway far too long and ever lengthening.

Why isn’t the chaplain here? 

They don’t see me kneeling near the family
praying, saying
what seems best

And silent
when words would only wound.

So many are here in the room; so many ‘round
They become a darkening, harkening thunder cloud. Chaos crescendos till there’s no place left for me.

Why isn’t the chaplain here? 

Lightning strikes; my pager ringing
jolts both of us.
Amid the chaos, my boss wants to know

Why isn’t the chaplain there?

Baptism for the baby
Rituals are for the living 
Respirations; God-breathed inhalations

Deus ex machina; artificial thriving.
Quick, quick

But my aching toe slows me; prohibits the speed crisis demands.
I return just in time to learn that the doctor did the deed.

Why isn’t the chaplain here?

Lightning strikes, again. Shocks the mind; ego seared.

Regret begets regret. What a bad day!
Drowning eyes in the diving end of prayer’s pool, this mother has swum to exhaustion,
paying no attention to the lifeguard’s
warning of a rapidly darkening sky.
I witness the moment she leaves the room without ever moving from her chair; surreal couples with real on a summer’s day
like a drowning disturbed by a sudden summer storm lightning-striking the water.

I watch her heart depart; go to that place where reality warps and bends by forces not yet defined.

Her heart exits with her words in an exhale—

He was perfect. How? My baby. Where?
Off on an exploratory mission to find her child

She is a silent radio telescope

Grounded to earth and searching the heavens for
Any sign of life
Right before my eyes,
See it with me now, I realize, standing there on one foot with
a coffee stained shirt and a bad shave and a baptism stolen out from under me,

I’m not the one having —what?
—a bad day?

Why isn’t the chaplain here?


Richard Alan Hadley

Journal of Pastoral Care & Counseling, Vol 71, Issue 2, pp. 138 – 139, First published date: June-15-2017, doi: 10.1177/1542305017710183
Posted in accordance with:


Langston Hughes is my favorite. He wrote:

What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up Like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore—and then run? Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags like a heavy load. Or does it
               I need you right now, Chaplain
Nurse demands.
We are the practitioners of peace making.
They call for our mojo to make it all better.
Duty drives the confidence of the chaplain on call;
Driving now to save the day with solace and soul care
Packed tight in the Pastoral Care Pack, here to answer
The protest –
This patient’s mom is out of control. Shaking him. Beating him.
“I can’t work like this,” the nurse protests.
“I can’t stand to see mom like this,” the son confesses.
“God gave His up his son, but I can’t give up mine!” the mom laments.
can’t fit into the room
Canted reality sent all hopes and dreams
to pile up loud like pots and pans
in a distant corner of the crowded room.
Meeting the family
Reaching for mom’s hand
Introducing myself, she stretches me
across her healthy son;
against the sicker one in bed.
Her grip grows tight ‘til
Together, we form a hand bridge
over her family
to herself
to the cascading falls
of tears and hopes
and fears and faith
I have no choice but to cross
and with my free hand
I gently wrap my arm across her shoulder

Her tiny frame simply melts into my side
And sobs; great wailing sobs
               Dreams deferred
Then like ash: a tragic rain
Soft and still

But there are no goods
Or greens
That from this grows.
There is only ash;
the rain of pain
Falling softly now
Quiet now
Catastrophic cacophony
In piano notes
Stop the rain with your tears
Stop the thunder with your screams
Stop his passing with your peace

Chaplain, you cannot.

Copyright ©2017 by Richard Hadley

Winner, Honorable Mention: 2017 Utmost Christian Poetry Contest

An Informal Prayer

“The proper way for a man to pray”
said Deacon Lemuel Keyes,
“and the only proper attitude
is down upon his knees.”

“Nay, I should say the way to pray,”
said Reverend Dr. Wise
“is standing straight with outstrecthed arms
and rapt and upturned eyes.”

“Oh, no, no, no.” said Elder Snow
“Such posture is too proud
A man should pray with eyes fast closed
and head contritely bowed.”

“It seems to me his hands should be
astutely clasped in front.
With both thumbs a pointing toward the ground.”
Said Reverend Hunt.

“Las’ year I fell in Hodgkins well
head first,” said Cyrus Brown,
“With both my heels a-stikin’ up,
my head a-p’inting down,
An’ I made a prayer right there an’ then;
Best prayer I ever said;
The prayingest prayer I ever prayed,
A-standin on my head.”

Scene from a Lapel Cross: Clocking Out

Five minutes ago


Fast and furious she commutes

From the labor

Daily grind



Curse of hard








Just to live


Five minutes ago

Fast and furious he leaves work too.


Only one minute before she filled the room

With chatter

With well wishing

With presence

With apologies for absence


was the same minute before he filled the room

With silence

With death wishing

With absence

With apologies for presence


Five minutes before this minute, she knew she

Needed to leave

Before he was gone


Five minutes before this minute, he knew he

Needed to leave

Before she arrived

Scene from a Lapel Cross: Time Out

“Put her in the quiet room!”

What is she?

Lost Luggage

On an over-delayed late night


“Put her in the quiet room!”

Her eyes widen

Clever girl

Fills in

In between the lines

What has been said

What has not been said

“That means it’s not good”

She strains through a smile

Held up by thin, bowing

Bamboo timbers of


I want to reinforce the beams

I want to bring blocks to fortify the feeble joist

“Sometimes they just need to work quickly

Sometimes they just need to do things that look scary or harmful to someone who doesn’t understand what they are doing.

It’s easier when family isn’t around”

Who is it now who treats her like

Lost Luggage?

“Put her in the quiet room”

What happens to

Bamboo beams bowed under load

forced to stand straight?

Bamboo is strong enough

Bending is not breaking

Easy Sermon

Easy Sermon
by Mark Jarman
It must be easy to preach a sermon nowadays — A friend

Sermons are easy, Turgid or breezy,
When everything goes wrong
Every scripture Leads on to rapture,
When doom has struck its gong.

When towers are falling
And muezzins are calling,
It’s simple to kneel and pray.
A message will come
To the deaf and the dumb
In an easygoing way

When nothing is certain,
Up goes the curtain
Where the inner sanctum lurks
And everyone sees
The forest and trees,
The treason and the clerks.

And so every creature
Turns to the preacher
For the meaning of it all.
And a couple of cents
Can be sheer eloquence
When the highest powers fall.


God of Hope and Peace:
Be near us.
Guard our hearts. Guard our minds. Guide our deeds.

Daybreak in Alabama

When I get to be a composer
I’m gonna write me some music about
Daybreak in Alabama
And I’m gonna put the purtiest songs in it
Rising out of the ground like a swamp mist
And falling out of heaven like soft dew.
I’m gonna put some tall tall trees in it
And the scent of pine needles
And the smell of red clay after rain
And long red necks
And poppy colored faces
And big brown arms
And the field daisy eyes
Of black and white black white black people
And I’m gonna put white hands
And black hands and brown and yellow hands
And red clay earth hands in it
Touching everybody with kind fingers
And touching each other natural as dew
In that dawn of music when I
Get to be a composer
And write about daybreak
In Alabama.

–Langston Hughes

Not Waving but Drowning


Nobody heard him, the dead man,   
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought   
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,   
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always   
(Still the dead one lay moaning)   
I was much too far out all my life   
And not waving but drowning.Image

Bitter Sweet

Ah, my dear angry Lord,
Since thou dost love, yet strike;
Cast down, yet help afford;
Sure I will do the like.

I will complain, yet praise;
I will bewail, approve;
And all my sour-sweet days
I will lament and love.

~George Herbert