If you’ve met one autistic person,
you’ve met one autistic person.
Somewhere in Winnepeg,
there is an icehouse with my name still on it. A
little colored girl with candy-coated braids stands,
buried under shushing layers of polyester and goose down feather,
hooded like a monk’s secret, pretending to be Eskimo
hand held by a bundled-up mother while
house becomes mirror. She studies
the flawless lines and 90-degree angles
where ice bricks become neighbors. Nobody
mentions puzzle pieces yet.
Belt straps and curses
peeled sanity off my skin –
I hid inside books.
Men sword fighting
in the background;
chickens strut about, pecking
looking for corn.
They all speak a strange language;
I don’t understand.
I am the only sane one in this
Roman wilderness. Yet,
I’m the one forced to count flowers
on the wall.
iv. the pretense, part I
So, the family always told me to be
normal. I found them unripe and
preoccupied with hair. But I tried
very hard to behave: I feel betrayed
by their lie.
I am now, at first glance, cool.
But it’s only an umbra of me,
like the impression of tombstone letters
rubbed onto paper by a pencil lead: I kneel,
looking in the wastebasket for the
full color glossy of me that got lost
along the way.
The raven speaks: Be careful. I hear talk of
wolves, felines, ragged men made out of bones,
river drifters, winged men set ablaze with their own judgment
that may come to carry you home. I am the
faithful, god-appointed. I can hide in the black
of Shani’s eye, inside Morrigan’s jaw, inside
Odin’s belly. In India, I steal bangles:
but you steal my black feathers for poetry. And
like me, you purloin every little piece and moment
of sparkle that you can find.
vi. color awareness
One Negro speaks of rivers: change
the term, but the color’s still the same – and I speak
of computer hard drive brains, over-wired
circuitry, and hearts that fracture
at the slightest jolt. The souls of Black Folk?
What about the souls of autistic Black Folk?
We mud colored, we chocolate colored, we
beige colored. We green colored, we alien.
The first time I was told that I talked “white”, I shuddered.
Is ostentatious a white word?
It looks like a gilded peacock strutting with
cubic zirconia gems on her toes (and I thought
ravens were bad!). And ain’t this a trip:
a brown man taught it to me. My sixth grade teacher. “College
words”, he used to say.
I wanted those – and their poetry – between
my widespread fingers like lust, like wilderness,
like Dionysus were a black woman getting
drunk on her own vintage. Langston Hughes,
calling me from the sweet land of the
blissful dead. Langston:
do you write graffiti on the pearly gates or
does God supply you paper for your every
At night, I rhyme without reason. When the
shades are drawn, I fashion dreams
from the stuff in my attic and try to hang them
on my walls, if only for a moment,
before the sun pours in. Will the morning sun
wipe my memory clean of the details? Super 8 film
cannot capture the best of these, and sometimes
I am left with melted celluloid in the morning.
viii. obsessive interest #500: narrow, but not straight
See, I keep writing rewriting his rescue scene
over and over again, but the picture never matches
the factual: he’s still gone. And I –
and the other seven billion children of planet Earth –
are still here.
I can only stand here, like concrete shoes to the earth
and watch the dance of transport,
the whirl and the dervish, the rattle and
the snake. The reconstruction of the fable,
the secret of the shaman, the wearing of ceremony
on his feet and hands. And I can only think:
You little twerp. Now I understand why
you shook those maracas.
I read every book, I memorize every fact.
I try to understand how two crazy military fathers
can run in parallel. I try to understand
how one little boy and one little girl
become targets for philandering loose hormones
from the same DNA tree. I try to understand
walking inside Nietzsche like I walked inside
Maya Angelou. And I try to understand
synaptic wiring as fucked up as mine: our gifts
look like lunacy but wax sweet and lyrical.
At best, for this obsession,
I will be dismissed as an autistic on a one-way train wreck.
But they can’t lock me up for that.
I burn bridges – burn it all
and rise from the ashes. If the wings come,
it won’t be until much later, so I must
climb the stairs: and I will never buy
lots and lots of shoes.
It’s so mindless: burn it all
and rise from the ashes. Why can’t
I stop myself? Destroy with the power
of my wrath — and shatter into shards
of disorienting pain.
The broken mirror
reflects Dad; rejoin the shards
and now I see me.
xi. a lotus life
A lotus rises by leaf and stalk out of the mud;
the birth of beginnings, seed and stem,
stalk, wisdom, and wonder,
rise up from the mud and unfold white fingers to the sky —
glory falls from petal fingertips.
Pain becomes poem, and poem becomes prayer
until the blossom breaks surface and loves the light again.
Maybe I was born to say goodbye.
But I’d like to think I was born to say hello.
Now you’ve met one out of eighty-eight: so
keep reading. With each word, I open
my translucent curio and show you
stripped-down wires and
a pulsating glass heart.
Composed 9/13 and 9/14/12
All sections ©2012 Nicole Nicholson except ix. meltdown and the first six lines of iv. pretense, part 1, which are © 2010 Rudy Simone. All Rights Reserved on material by N. Nicholson.
This poem was composed for We Write Poems Prompt #123: Poem Leftovers. Most of the sections of this poem were parts of unfinished poems written in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012. Some new material was added to already existing portions (namely in i, iii, iv, vii, viii, and xii) and section vi is entirely brand new material. Sections ii and x were haiku composed in 2010 for the Columbus-area New Year Haiku Death Match (which I came in second at).
Sections iv and ix were parts of a cento I never finished. They form the poem that I was trying to originally compose titled “1 in 88” and are taken from the book “Aspergirls” by Rudy Simone.
BTW, the title refers to the latest CDC statistics that 1 out of every 88 children has an autism spectrum condition. And I hope you enjoyed the poem.