The mirror that refused to look back

I was given a simple but thoughtful response to my last blog. Lynn said “Who is really brave enough to want to see the mirror’s reflections?”

It took me by surprise. And it made me think about the lack of choice some of us have in being faced by what ‘the mirror’ has to tell. Nearly 50 years on I’m still trying to unravel a thread on the things that made me who I am: the nightly hallucinations that haunted me as a child between the ages of 5 and 9, moving into teens and twenties. These experiences have left a legacy of a lifetime of problems around sleep.

Those nightly terrors were damaging, but were also part of something magical; a reminder of something beyond the daily mundane reality. And having grown up in the throes of an evangelical fundamentalist religion, which made no concessions for reflection I was forced from an early age to question what was going on? And maybe what destroyed me, partly saved me, also, at another level.

And maybe having the courage to keep looking in the mirror, even when it kept refusing to look back, (I mean, there was somebody in the mirror but he wasn’t me) has given me a resilience I would never have otherwise have had.

The mirror that refused to look back
© Colin Hambrook

He had been shelling peas, neatly
into a tupperware bowl;
pretending not to be,
when mothers’ blanket slipped.
From under the ironing board
the child learnt the ways
of the shades of the dead,
Immersed in wonderful skies
beyond heaven’s hellish grip.

Sleep never came easily;
interrupted by the nightly carnival,
playing in a dirty yellow light
at the top of the stairs,
just outside the bedroom door:
a robber in striped jumper and eye mask
hovered with a bag marked ‘swag’
big enough to take a whole life away.
And once, a lion with a full mane
lingered on the same spot,
at the foot of slumber,
threatening to roar the house awake.

Later… as boyhood beckoned
the looking glass refused the steady gaze
he offered its silvered reflection.
Perhaps it couldn’t embrace
the coating, like limescale
that grew from the twilight corner
of a fractured sense of loss.

Who is really brave enough
to face the mirror’s reflection?

About Knitting Time: art and poetry on the theme of psychosis

'Knitting Time: a journey through loss' is a poetry and visual arts project reflecting on the theme of art and psychosis. A book and exhibition of the work is due to be launched at Pallant House Gallery in Chichester, West Sussex on 10 October 2013 to celebrate World Mental Health Day. During this research and development phase I want to gather responses, thoughts, recollections and comments, so please fill in my surveymonkey at and add your let me know what you think? Or feel free to email me via knitting-time [at]
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