Tom's Story

Tom was 11. His father alcoholic, his mother worn out. He had an older brother who also lived at home. He had been referred to the Arts Therapist by his school tutor as Tom’s behaviour, when he did attend school, was ‘unmanageable and disruptive’.


Tom wasn’t interested in doing anything creative. He wasn’t interested in anything. The therapist challenged him to make his mark on a large piece of paper. He took a pencil, stabbed the paper and ripped it to pieces. He then took the torn up pieces, screwed them all up and threw them away.


The therapist ‘felt’ Tom’s ‘enthusiasm’ for this ‘destructive’ act of creativity and asked if he could have a go at doing the same thing. Tom looked at the therapist…was the therapist making fun of him…? …He’d expected to be reprimanded…now this man wanted to copy him. Tom nodded. They took up ‘arms’, their weapons, in the form of sharpened pencils and ‘attacked’ the paper. As Tom saw the therapist rip the paper to pieces just as he had, he smiled...and then they both laughed. In this shared act of contained wanton destruction they’d made contact.


The therapist then suggested they made some ‘rubbish’ poetry together. Tom had never written a poem in his life! The therapist asked Tom to scribble any words that came into his head on the bits of paper he’d thrown away. Tom picked up the pieces. The chosen words spoke of fear and rage and powerlessness.


We used these words to make a poem; from the poem we created a story and from the story a script. The drama we enacted told the story of a boy called Richie.


Richie had a Dad who didn’t seem to care who he hurt. His Dad loved to drink. Richie thought his dad loved drink more than he loved him or his Mum or his big brother. Drinking made him angry. Dad would then hit out at anything in his way. It was usually Mum who stood between him and her sons. She got his fist in her face. Richie and his brother were too small then to do anything about it. One day Dad did not come home. No-one knew what had happened to him or where he’d gone; he just didn’t come back - never did. Richie was glad. He was sure things would be better. They did at first, but not for long. Richie’s brother soon became just like Richie’s Dad. So Richie used to stay out as long as he could because when he got home his bigger brother would beat him up. This happened every day.

Tom tried hard not to cry. No one had heard him before, no one had known, no one had realised what was going on at home.

Tom didn’t have to put on a brave face and shrug off his anguish here with the therapist. His works of art told his story and there was a witness - the therapist - to its truth.

There were many things the therapist couldn’t easily change for Tom, but Tom no longer had to keep it all to himself. In the therapy room together Tom became a very different boy from the one described in the referral.

Kit Loring 24.10.02.

head down
flat to floor
heavy boot against my face
snarl and spit
angry as thunder
fist fly
whose heavy steel cap boot is this
crushes my head?
Body twists
but can’t escape
as if some
thick long iron nails pinned me
to this stone cold floor
through head
through heart

and the more i thrash
the more it hurts
and the more i lash out
the more i hurt

get out the way out the way out of my way
there is a killing man inside me
dangerous wild
and i cannot control him
he controls me
brutal as a shark at sea
teeth bared baring down on


stay away, keep out of my way
if you know what’s good for you
this you must do
i am dangerous and i am


afraid of what i can do, of what i will do to you
of who i am
of what i have become
angry now
as the thunder storm
storms my head again
the rain raids
like bullets
shoot from the skies
pelting me
shame rain on
wounded men

what i need i cannot have
what i have i do not need
and still the boot
heavy as lead
and the nail
through my head
pin me to the stone hard floor
and turns my heart too
to hard stone cold
rock hard as hardened rock hardens under pressure
heavy as history
the weight of time’s testimony upon me

and this me…?
Is not me
and this me
is me
and i don’t need
‘cos i won’t need what i can’t have
and so

i only