I always thought a group was something
one chose to join.  No choice here:
assigned to a multitude of strangers,
sharing nothing but our pain.
And even that we may not share;
quiet tears, perhaps, but not more.


No sharing the horror.  No sharing
the pain that rips itself from minds
and mouths in bloody gobbets.


The Group Norms poster says so:
“Such sharing may distress
other group members; please maintain
these norms for the benefit of all.”


Far better to pretend we are fine.
Making progress.  Discharge beckons.
A normal life.
Staff make Notes, discreetly.


Meanwhile we scream internally;
the gobbets well concealed.
Such things are for private consultations
with nurses, registrars, consultants,
in secluded soundproof rooms.
Notes are made, of course.


No, it would not be ‘therapeutic’
for our fellow-patients to know
we suffer just as they do.
That we too long to scream our horror.
Acknowledgement, acceptance, mutual recognition:
is that too much to ask?


For those of us unable to restrain ourselves
there are alternatives. Occupational Therapy,
where we fill blank mindless hours
with puzzles, trivia, and guessing games.
All to still the raging mind,
the seething thoughts.


Art Therapy is good.
Somehow a scream of pain
becomes acceptable when it’s
in poster paint on butchers’ paper.
Or charcoal doodles
on stiff cheap coloured card.
Pain is distanced, allowed,
Even encouraged.


The thin, thin girl with the naso-gastric tube
Draws endless stylised vaginas
in wax crayon.  They gape
as if in wordless screams.
When asked she says they are flowers.
The therapist nods approvingly,
and makes a Note.


A man spends an hour cutting card
into ever smaller pieces.
The scissors are quite blunt;
the bandages on his wrists say
he is over-familiar with sharp objects.
Another Note is made.


And me? I don’t do art. I’m a musician.
But they don’t have Music Therapy any more.
Not since the tortured boy
garrotted himself
with a steel guitar string.
That therapist no longer makes Notes.


And nor do I.