If you see the paint on my shoes,
the imprint of color like lost angels
that slipped from brush tips, fell to Earth,
and landed, becoming color Rorschachs
upon another canvas, then know
that they are the words I lost from between lips and teeth,
accidental syllables of emerald, brick red, and azure
that flew too close to the sun.
Some land on the floor, imprinting onto my soles
once I walk across their wordless surfaces.
Were it not for my mad
paint and canvas soliloquies, odes to this world,
haiku of scenery, and elegies of the dead,
you might never notice me at all. I’d move
soundlessly through your world like a flesh wrapped ghost —
buttoned down, broken lips, dismissed
as the man with a vacant mind and no voice;
a rocking horse man, a bird man
flapping arms like Alcatraz cannot hold him. If I were any older,
I might have been a man of closets, of white walls, or of
padded rooms. Or the trickster Coyote as man, accused of
holding demons in my limbs, of
trapping my glances and gazes in my eyes out of avarice,
of letting speech ferment in my mouth out of spite,
and of walking in soulless shoes.
Can you pull your souls out of your shoes
for just a door crack of a moment, just to see
what kinds of colors I have picked up from your world?
Years ago, you had banished the black from your lunch counters;
corralled the red into wastes of dry death land;
built the railroads out of yellow bones and broken ties;
made pale fragile souls from the green land
scrape streets with bare bones fingers;
shoved the rainbow strange behind charcoal prison bars – and now,
you look at me and see nothing but puzzle pieces, ribbons, and
Listen carefully: I am not green
like the dollars you raise to cure me,
or sable like the pocketbooks you pity me with,
or white like the institutional walls
you used to sentence us to live within
like some dry, dead ghosts that you cannot exorcise. But
I walk this earth in canvas shoes, paint splattered like a motley skin –
and the black, red, yellow, and rainbow
have imprinted their umbra of fallen colors
upon my soul. I might only possess the eloquence of paint,
flapping arms, or touch screen, text-to-speech oratory –
and sometimes, the branches of the speech nerves in my brain
become too brittle and shatter, breaking off and flying away
as wordless screams. But I am no less a man, and
I contain multitudes of words, breath, and colors.
I will not march to demand your notice,
and I will not hold signs to demand your respect. Know that
I am comfortable with silence and my unexplained brain wiring –
but I must ask you one question:
are you comfortable with me?
Written 2/5/12 and 2/6/12
© 2012 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.
This poem is for We Write Poems Prompt #92, Big Shoes, suggested by Donald Habour. The prompt is about civil rights. I kept having the image of shoes floating through my mind, and then the non-verbal autistic painter who first appeared in “This Is Not Magic” rose to the surface to speak. I was also further inspired by this CBS News broadcast in late 2011 about the use of iPads to help non-verbal autistics communicate. And I hope you enjoyed the poem.