70 Stories

#19 Goosegrass

‘There is nothing so tender as a mouse, upon the hand of a child, heart beating.’

Goosegrass is another poem produced through the writing group at Leverndale Hospital’s Recreational Therapy Department, this one by a group member called Nuala. Work by the writing group is exhibited at the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival annually, forming part of a wider exhibition to celebrate the creative work that goes on in the hospital throughout the year.

Goosegrass, mice, dampening skies.

Outside – the sky

is dampening the treeline

Grey soaks into yellow into

green into


I’m back picking goosegrass

in the shade of the ward.

I drop each leaf,

each burr,

each shred of stem.

I drop them as I whisper,


to a memory.

In the outhouse my dad catches mice.

He gives them, live, to the cat.

I have another memory,

of writing, in my phone, a note:

There is nothing so tender as a


upon the hand of a child,

heart beating.

I’m empty from the vomiting,

and I think of mice.

What about those thin hospital sheets has reminded me?

Back in the outhouse,no,

the garden just ahead.

I am being stifled

by goosegrass.

I think of the mice

as I remember how I left my body

and watched a rash spreading from afar

I wonder – who deserves their beating heart?

A memory again, as the skies dampen further,

I remember how the clouds shone a dull purple

and offered to freeze my hands to the bridge.

I remember begging my heart to keep beating

even as I knew it had to stop.

70 Stories is an online project curated by the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival to mark the 70th anniversary of the Mental Health Foundation. The project connects stories from our Writing Competition, stories from SMHAF participants, and more in a compelling portrait of mental health in 2019.

Keep an eye on mhfestival.com/70stories for new entries in the series. If you are connected in some way to SMHAF or the Mental Health Foundation and would like to contribute a piece of writing to this project, please contact aeaton-lewis@mentalhealth.org.uk.