Listen (An Open Letter to Autism Speaks)

after Michael Stipe

Listen: I have a voice. It is my own.
I did not install you as a little charm box
to hang in the back of my throat
and chime discordant when I send
wind from my sails up to the world

to produce sound – nor did
I rip a little patch of my soul from
the cathedral of strings inside my neck
and give it to you to own and
sound as you please.

Listen: you are not me.
Your muscles are not made of me,
and you did not build yourself from
my bones. And there are millions of us
that declare the same things of you while
we watch you,

a Percival patchwork constructed
from skin-made, empty-bellied idols
sewn together with fictions that once called us
changelings, fay, elves, and demons.
Trade pixie dust for false science –
the chemical mercurial that promises

to distill the fractured double-helixes
out of our bodies and make us,
aaahhh, normal, again – but the quest
is still the same: a cured us,
its Holy Grail song never failing to seduce
the bewildered and confused who declare
that something stole their children.

You think I’ve said too much?
I haven’t said enough.
Listen: my voice comes in fiction,
my voice comes in verse: for some of us,
our voices come in fingers spilling
electrical impulses forged in rainbow fashion

onto screens, translated into letter
and curve. Some of us only move lips
to eat, to breathe: for me, words live in my bones
but some days, won’t break surface.
A scream can shed my dissembling skin,
which I have worn all my life
to pretend to be like you: but
you are not me.

Don’t dare to declare to speak for me:
you call us golems, with tragedy carved
into our foreheads. Some of us thought
that we saw you try to rearrange your eyes
and see the spirits electric within us:

but we know now for certain
that was just a dream. Listen: don’t dare
to declare that you can speak for us.
Our voices lay just past the skin you call
broken and new, wrought into an epidemic –

but our roots lie ancient below earth
when soul first broke into sight though
hominid eyes. You can never hope
to impersonate us: the best you can do
is steal our places. Now listen to this:
we will not let you do that any longer.

Written 11/13/13
© 2013 Nicole Nicholson. All Rights Reserved.

I am a poet. I am autistic. I have a pen and I will use it. I stand with Lydia Brown in defiance of Autism Speaks.

Yo, Autism Speaks: are you even listening? Obviously not. It claims to speak for us, but does not have autistic people in its leadership, does not represent our interests, promotes “cause and cure” thinking about autism, and continually paints it as a tragedy. Listen: I am not a tragedy. I am a human being. And I sure as hell ain’t missing (if you wonder why I say that, read this call to action posted on Autism Speaks’ website by its co-founder, Suzanne Wright. I dare you not to barf before you’re done reading).

I borrowed lyrics from R.E.M.’s song, “Losing My Religion”. Quite appropriate, because many autistics are losing their religion over Autism Speaks. (“Losing my religion” is an expression common in the Southern United States for losing one’s temper, or being at the end of one’s rope.)

For more information, please check out these links:




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, Poems and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Listen (An Open Letter to Autism Speaks)

  1. Pingback: My Son is Not Lost | Dmitry Laughs

  2. pianomikey says:

    You are not lost.
    You are not despair.
    You are not misery.
    You are not silent.

    I’m linking you from my blog, in my response here:

    THANK YOU for your poetry. I only just found you today. I’ve been remiss in the past, but I promise, I will listen.

  3. Very well said 🙂 I concur. Thank you.

  4. Reblogged this on Woman With Asperger's and commented:

    Autism Speaks has decided to hijack Washington and present its own agenda about autism. Time and time again, they have not included autistic people in their leadership, promoted “cause and cure” thinking about autism, has not represented the interests of autistic people, and continually paints autism as a tragedy. I speak best in verse, so please consider jumping over to Raven’s Wing Poetry and reading my open letter (poem) to Autism Speaks. Oh yeah — and please share. 🙂


  5. margo roby says:

    ‘I speak best in verse’ — no kidding! Your voice is loud and clear; what you say is rich and meaningful.


  6. Leah Kelley says:

    ((Nicole)) You and your words always move me so deeply. Thank you for your mighty pen and articulate and flowing ink and the power of your poetry. I appreciate you!

  7. stimmyabby says:

    Amazing poem. I completely agree. That Autism Speaks Call To Action is completely disgusting.

  8. Pingback: Why I support the Boycott | Autism Speaks Hurts. Real People Speaking.

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

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