There’s a stream by the Avon ward
Where I stand to watch the water flow
And unwind the whirlpools of my mind
When it’s dark I let its rhythms
Strum me to an unquiet peace
Away from the shouts and rips
The banging on locked doors
By day I watch the water flow
I think about your beauty’s mind
Because to me you seem fine
Though they tell me you’re mad

But I forgot to stop by the stream yesterday
4pm, a sunlit Tuesday in Edgware
I didn’t catch the jewels of light in its water
For I was replaying the tribunal
Where you requested your freedom
And they spoke to you words
Medical words you hadn’t really heard

‘Why are you here?’ they asked
‘Because I’m mentally unwell,’ you said
‘So you admit you have problems?’ they said
‘Of course I do,’ you said. ‘You told me I do.’

And the doctor said violence
As the waters filled the room
And the key worker said danger
As the waters began to bubble
And the solicitor said nothing
As the waves soared and raged

Then they said: speak

And you spoke and you slurred and were slow
You’d once darted like a flame’s shadowplay
But the pills had robbed you of your light
I heard the water in the room stop listening
I saw your boat pitch in a lashing storm
Your words half-formed you stopped

So I said: can I speak?

I said ‘I’ve known this boy, this man
His gentleness and belief in love
His big shovel hands
And his fingers’ twitch
I’ve stood opposite him in boxing gloves
And never felt danger
I would trust him to save me
From drowning’

And they thanked me
And thanked you
And told you you may not leave
You nodded and thanked them
Though in the morning
You thought you’d be walking
Out of that ward

They told me I had to leave
For it was not visiting hours

You said ‘don’t forget me’
I said ‘I won’t forget you’
And you asked for my book
I knew you would not read it
But I gave it to you freely
And you gave me two CD cases
Without discs inside them

I forgot to look at the stream that night
I forgot to listen to its rhythms
I took a train back into the city
I walked across London Bridge
And thought how I was free to do so
I gazed at the Tower’s reflection
Sparkle on the wide waters’ darkness
I thought ‘what is madness?’

Madness is clutching two CD cases
With no discs inside
And not wanting to let them go

By Patrick Cash


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