NaPoWriMo Poem #13: Pretending to Be Normal (Eye Contact)

If you try to look into my eyes
you might succeed, if only for a moment
until I feel your gaze incise
and my skin wires buzz with too much current.

Long ago, I began to invent
a way to wear a kind of compromise –
“normal”, like a suit of skin. But you circumvent
this, if you try to look into my eyes.

It’s not your fault. This is my own disguise,
trying to hide my alien skin, to prevent
my green strangeness from showing through. If one’s wise,
one might succeed, if for more than a moment,

to coax me to wear my own skin, content
to drop the mask which has helped comprise
this costume, my shame, my hidden torment.
But when I feel your gaze incise

me, the edges of the veneer peel away. It dies
as I remember how crystalline and easily spent
I am: my heart explodes in glass-shatter demise
while my skin wires buzz with too much current.

Understand that for me, it’s a mountain’s ascent
to return your gaze often, to study your eyes
until my nerves burn with a fevered lament:
so I can only be me, without compromise,
when you look into my eyes.

Written 4/19/11
© 2011 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
Hoooweee! This is a rondeau redoublé, a more complex form of the rondeau. I mentioned yesterday that this intrigued and scared me at the same time, so I thought I would give it a try.

According to the Wikipedia entry, this is how a rondeau redoublé is structured: “…also written on two rhymes, but in five stanzas of four lines each and one of five lines. Each of the first four lines (stanza 1) get individually repeated in turn once by becoming successively the respective fourth lines of stanzas 2, 3, 4, & 5; and the first part of the first line is repeated as a short fifth line to conclude the sixth stanza. This can be represented as – A1,B1,A2,B2 – b,a,b,A1 – a,b,a,B1 – b,a,b,A2 – a,b,a,B2 – b,a,b,a,(A1).” So as you can see, this is an intricate form with a lot of room for development of a theme or story in a poem — which in a weird way, reminds me of the pantoum.

Oh, yeah: and this is another autism poem. I took the title and the inspiration from not only my own experiences with having Asperger Syndrome but also from the title of Liane Holliday Willey‘s first book, “Pretending to Be Normal”. She discovered as an adult that she has Asperger’s, and this book documents her early life, her attempts to appear normal, and the discovery of her own autism upon the diagnosis of one of her daughters. Talking to other women across the spectrum, I have encountered one thing (especially those of us who are above age 30) that we seem to all have in common: knowing we weren’t like everyone else, and yet not knowing why, but at the same time still trying to fit in and pretend to be normal. Dr. Tony Attwood further explains that autistic girls and women are good at observing and mimicking their peers, hence why many of us grow up “pretending to be normal”. I know this was true for me, as well. For me, this poem is not so much about seeking acceptance (how appropriate, considering this is Autism Awareness Month) as it is trying to explain what’s behind the eyes and seeking understanding.

I hope you enjoyed this poem.


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About ravenswingpoetry

I am a 38 year old writer from Columbus, OH and the creator of Raven's Wing Poetry. I am a poet, seeker, fellow traveler, and autistic.
This entry was posted in Asperger Poetry, NaPoWriMo 2011, Poems, Rondeau and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to NaPoWriMo Poem #13: Pretending to Be Normal (Eye Contact)

  1. Nathan K says:

    This is a terrific poem!

  2. Pingback: voices v |

  3. PLC says:

    As I shiver with who I am today your poem touched me deeply. Aspergers is killing me.

  4. Leah Kelley says:

    This is exquisite… thank you for your words, Nicole.

  5. You’re welcome. 🙂 I think that as far as eye contact is concerned, it is what it is. I slowly learned growing up how to make more eye contact, but it is still never easy to do it for long. I haven’t gotten into the debates over whether it is essential to emphasize eye contact for autistic people or not, but I tend to think that whatever works and is comfortable for each individual person is the way to go.


  6. Pingback: Poems of neurodivergent students and their life. | Commonplace Book

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