I’ve written poetry since I was a young child, make poetry zines, and went to grad school for poetry–I earned an MFA. Poetry is a big part of my life, and a way I process reality. This morning I read a Walt Whitman poem at the recommendation of my housemate. Poetry is part of my days. Recently I wrote my first poem about autism.
I didn’t set out to write a poem about autism–I was just talking to myself on paper, forming phrases that felt satisfyingly accurate about my experiences. Afterward I read it as I was editing it, and realized the commonality of the ideas was social differences that could be considered under a heading of autism. So “autism” is what I titled it.
Autistic people are said to think literally. We’re also said to use language in quirky ways.
Well, that’s my validating translation of diagnosis-language. I’ve heard more damning description of our language use, like we have “difficulty communicating.” But it takes two to communicate, right? If someone doesn’t understand me, could be them.
Also I’ve read we have “difficulty understanding,” but maybe the other person doesn’t understand that they’re the one who doesn’t understand that I understand. My understanding might look different, which is not necessarily a problem. I refuse to consider autistic people invalid.
how I think
Yes, I do think literally, but I also think in metaphor. I think in colors and shapes, and in images. In movement, and in stimmy non-word sounds. I think in sentences and phrases, and in words that stick out by themselves.
Meeting someone, I often ask if they’re Sara or Sarah, or how their Kaitlin is spelled, because I see names in my mind. Often the names are in different colors depending on how I feel about the person. I’m more comfortable / less uncomfortable talking to someone if I know how their name is spelled.
I think in prose, and sometimes I think in poetry. I love poetry for dense ideas, directness, clarity, creative wordplay, and concision. Often I feel impatient that people are chitter chattering way more words than necessary in written materials and everyday life. I enjoy poetry for how it gets to deep basics about life and death; I don’t need to wade through banal formalities.
Here’s the poem about autism if you would like to read it.
autism by Laura-Marie River Victor Peace Nopales
after a certain age, I wasn’t supposed
to want to kiss buses.
I have inappropriate feelings
they flow like river water.
inanimate objects are
much kinder to me than people.
I’m not a behavioral problem.
I could curve my body
under the limbo bar
for the first try.
good intelligence couldn’t save me.
I recognize how I’m supposed to behave
but can’t perform it.
the party is clear,
but I’m behind glass, under water,
in a slightly different dimension
where my mouth moves
but my words are at the wrong angle
and come out bright pink
in an environment of cream.