A Series of Scenarios in the Place of the Mad
(Colin Hambrook)

Fish Eye and The Mirror 

He is thrown into a gap, down to the centre of the earth,
opening like a womb down to the core of creation.

And all is empty, wiped clean as dust, a silent place of shadow,
shoveled-up with the hubris of centuries of certainty
that the place of the mad is secure…

He is an ocean. He is an ocean raised in air and living in a bubble
below the surface of things.

He is a bright sea extending the full wrap of the orb of the earth
and to the edges of the wind.

He is yesterday. He is tomorrow and all spaces in between.

And he is not these things.

He is the deepest breath — one that seems never to stop filling the lungs.
And he is an even longer out-breath.

He is the rattling cry of the corvid reaching to break the chains
of this moment and to take in the ocean of generations back
and back to the time when hydrogen and oxygen first decided to mate,
the primary coupling of matter.

He is the birth of spirit into the tearless cry of new-born life.

He is the centre and the periphery.

He is the melancholy grace of the wings of the Whooping Crane,
the sail of the Sea Swallow, the Starling and the Dunlin.
He is a Salmon pushing up-river and all living things searching for grace.

He is without boundary. He is everything and all time and he is nothing.

He is of no consequence, less than a single beat in the story of knowledge.

He is the roar of flame at the core of the groaning planet turning as a restless foetus seeking revelation in the womb of its mother.

He is a whisper of red, the all-consuming passion at the start and end of it all.

Out of body experience

And I was stuck there in that frame, awake but asleep as it were… floating drowned, one moment a slug — one of those large brown endlessly long ones that’s gorged itself on a ton of lettuce leaves with all its moist, dank, rippling, tanned veins, the colour of stewed tea, crawling with the sweat of Satan and then… dissolved by salt. The salt of the bloody earth.

And I’m there and not-there, hanging, aware, alone in the universe, thinking bloody hell, where’ve I gone? Can’t feel. My feelers have gone, no slime beneath on which to ooze. I’ve no head, no arms, no hands, no legs, no torso, no bum on which to sit myself. Can’t shake this cage. But this thought is awake and I can’t break through the dog bone steel of this moment blanked. Stuck in space but no-space and suddenly I am all tremor, strung out with heaviness and the fear smells like my Grans kitchen and I’m hiding inside her larder with the endless rows of chutney and jam.

And I’ve no time and all time and the shaking spirit of the ages rattling through the slug of it all and the bile is all consuming and I’m pushing pushing, pushing the tank of a stuck stomach, no shelter just this pushing through the nerves. I know nerves are there —­ I’ve known them from before, but there’s nothing until I push and pushed push and force myself into shaking and it breaks it breaks it breaks… and then it tightens, the squashed slug of it all in the mouth and the shaking diseased stark blood of it all and I’m pushing and pushing and pushing and there’s no need to…

I can connect with breath. Yes. I can breathe and I’m there inside the ocean and inside the earth and inside the air and suddenly it’s there… something is there… I’m there and what the hell is this. But I’ve known it before and I’ll know it again this loneliness this steel heart and this turning of a wheel, turning of a tide this bolting from the… the shit where we sit with the mad!

Waiting in the corridor

I’ve been told to sit there on this limp, dead plastic chair and its rotten red and nurse has told me I’m here for my own good. And she says it’ll do me good. And the walls are lime green and they go on endlessly down the bareness of the corridor and this’ll do me good; this cleanness. I want to believe because I want to be well.

I’m going to be scrubbed, clean out the bad inside. But what is it making people yell and shout and bang? And I’m nestled, tense arms flaking like willow leaves and the sounds around first one end, then the other of this endless river — a shout from one side like a crow on a pigeon and suddenly there is a flock of crows on the attack and the shrieks are growing one on one and there are men in uniforms rushing with howling feet, white coats like gulls pouncing for sea bass.

And I pull away from this nightmare — a teenage nothing in surround-sound — knees tucked and pulling the bedclothes all around and fierce rain is pounding and there is a comfort in humming to the beat of rain. Da, da, da dah. Da, da, da dah.

And there is sharpness in the atmosphere — the calm comes in waves bursting through tension and we’re waiting for lightening and the nurses are bustling and the hollers creep up again as the storm breaks… with another rush of feet — a pummeling of feet and bang, a door slams, reverberates and a small woman in pajamas rustles away from me, a nodding smile of recognition. Almost happy, keeping the anxiety down. And through the end another door, doors on doors on doors like outrageous rain… and god is shaking this place… the place of the mad.


Colin Hambrook has a background as a survivor artist, arts facilitator, and disability arts journalist. He is author of two illustrated poetry collections: 100 Houses (DaDaSouth, 2011) and Knitting Time (Waterloo Press, 2013). He has twenty-five years’ experience working at the hub of the Disability Arts Movement as an editor/producer, publishing and showcasing work by disabled artists, fostering networks and enabling debates around the development of disability arts practice. He is currently working on Fools’ Gold, a performance piece and research project reflecting on the history of psychiatry and the representation of mental illness within the visual arts and literature.