Before and after poems

I thought I would share these 2 poems because I feel they illustrate a shift in my understanding.

The first poem “Sectioned” was written in response to hearing an electric door swish shut behind me as I walked from glorious sunshine into a shady building where I work. The experience made me wonder how I would feel if I was entering the hospital (where I work) as a detainee on a “Section” (of the Mental Health Act). Despite working on an NHS site that has several mental health units I had almost no experience of entering a mental health ward and so the poem was based on imagination (and thankfully not supported by anything I have heard or experienced since). So I hope that the poem doesn’t depict what it would be like to be in a mental health unit these days. The poem was published in an anthology called “Pinhole Camera: The Third Side of the Coin” published by Cumbria University.

The second poem was written in November 2011 (when I was on a Writing in Healthcare course at Ty Newydd which was in some ways like a writing retreat) after I had been leading writing groups in mental health units for more than 18 months. This second poem describes the group I have been doing for longest. I hope you get the sense of a very different mood in the second poem.

Sectioned   [5th June 2008]

The electric door creaks open
like a guillotine
being drawn up. Readied.
My life outside cut away
with a swish
and a breath.

Warm dank air hits me,
like stale urine.
The nurse’s shoes squeak
down the polished corridor,
like the wheels of the tumbrel.
Already I can hear the crowd.

Voices press in on me.
Not my voices,
who are hiding.
Other voices –
mumbling, confused
angry: ‘So will I drop dead if
I don’t take your freakin’ tablet?’
As I pass their rooms,
doors agape,
some voices quieten,
faces turn towards me.
Others continue unknowing.


The nights are the worst.
Confined to my room
from eleven till seven,
I lie awake
listening to the voices –
mine, theirs.
And the sleep sounds
of a stranger
four feet away.
And it would be OK
if I only understood

Hadrian Writing Group

I am in a light, airy place.
White walls are strewn with coloured shapes,
a stream bed of giant pebbles.
A giant could fold these walls out flat,
make himself a huge abstract painting.

There is a mess of art stuff scattered.
Paint pots and brushes beside a sink.
Pictures and poems on the walls.
A Dolly Mix of plastic chairs huddle
round two white Formica tables.

Our table is near the windows.
Our heads are bowed, eyes downcast.
Our hands are moving, sliding over paper,
pens softly scratching in the hush.

I can hear birdsong,
faraway voices.
My muscles are relaxing,
tensions easing.
Our minds are calming,
finding flow,
a sense of


About Carol Ross

Interested in therapeutic writing.
This entry was posted in Poetry, reflective practice and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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