After yesterday’s guest blog on happiness, today I turn to the subject of madness, more specifically my own.
I was approached a few months ago and asked to write a poem for a book being prepared by Bovington Middle School in Dorset, to raise money both for the school’s English deparment and for Help for Heroes. I tried all sorts of ideas before settling on this poem, WHEN THE MIND CRACKS, which is clearly inspired by my own crack-up in 1986.
I never knew why they called it cracking up
Until the crack up
Until I closed my eyes
To chase away the fear
And saw a plate glass
Where a moment ago I saw the world
Turning churning churning turning
Into a maelstrom of noise and colour and people
Who were there
I think they were there
But when I asked them why
Their eyes took them away from me
To a world I wasn’t meant for
So I closed my eyes
And hoped the noise would go
But it grew louder
Till the plate glass shook
The colours merged
Just as the brassband merged with the bagpipes
Merged with the orchestra
Playing the start of the opera
Merged with The Shadows
I’m cracking up … I want Elvis or Johnny Cash or no, Kris Kristofferson
Yes, Kris Kristofferson
And they give me Hank fucking Marvin
No offence Hank
But who put you there? And why?
Why blue in the left corner?
Why red in the right?
Why God in the centre?
I don’t do God
But He’s testing me
If not Him who?
Something’s testing me
And the punishment must follow
The tiny hands before my eyes can hold the glass no more
So it shatters into a million shards
Of noise and colour, of voices and music and memory
And each one cuts into the skull
Yet there’s no blood
Or if there is it is
Blue red green brown yellow black
Now mixing so harsh so ugly I can look no more
So I open my eyes again
A man is standing there
His hand reaches out
Touches my shoulder
And he asks if I need any help
The plate glass has broken I say
He nods and I wonder how he can know it has broken
When all he can see is me
Not the millions of shards still flying behind my eyes
As to why
They call it cracking up
** School of Poetry, which includes poems from author Terry Pratchett, TV presenter Robert Llewellyn, as well as students and teachers from the school, can be found at lulu.com
** To order signed copies of Alastair’s diaries via Waterstone’s, click here