If you’re here from an Autistics Speak Day link, welcome and scroll past the italics! This introduction is for people who (like me) hadn’t heard of the project until today.
Something you almost certainly didn’t know about me is the first sport to really inspire me to write a “free verse” poem. It wasn’t baseball, source of most of my sporty musings. It also wasn’t hockey, the only other sport I’m really a fan of. Nor was it (American) football, which I half-heartedly follow for fantasy purposes. Not even soccer, which I write about a lot with fictional players and teams.
It was basketball. Which I really don’t care about at all. Not the NBA, which I’ve been to…twice, not March Madness, which I’ve somehow won bracket-picking contests in. High school basketball, which I almost never care about except if I was in high school and at a pep band game. Which I wasn’t.
The high school basketball game that got my attention was the one from 2006 when autistic student manager Jason McElwain came off the bench to score all those random three-pointers. That’s not what inspired me. What “inspired” me was the scene a while later when…I don’t remember how it all played out, but the impression I got was a lot of money had been raised after the fact to donate to, I think, research towards curing autism. At least that’s what I thought when I wrote the thing, I may have misinterpreted it.
Something else you might or might not know about me is that I’m on the autism spectrum myself (specifically, my diagnosis is Asperger’s Syndrome, although they’re redoing the names for it in the next DSM or whatever so I’m not sure it makes much of a difference). And to me, the idea of using the impressive actions of one individual to work towards a future without such individuals seems…disturbingly illogical.
The aforementioned diagnosis was in fact delivered by a mental health professional; I’m relatively young and have been fortunate to receive special services through the health and educational systems during a time when autism diagnoses have increased. Unfortunately, in a lot of places on the internet where peoples’ words can’t be verified, autism is dismissed out of hand as a meaningless self-diagnose. This has something to do with lots of people being jerks in general, and much to do with me being sensitive to cheap jokes about parts of my identity that are very important to me, but all the same it’s something unpleasant.
This morning dianagram (of the brilliant baseball blog Value Over Replacement Grit) spread the word that today, November 1, is Autistics Speaking Day. It’s a little short-notice, but I decided to contribute; this is something that means a lot to me.
It’d be nice to keep
Silence. To read the words between the faces;
Words flashing by at their own paces
Not changing blurs, forgotten imagery
Or the fall and rise
Of tolerated lies.
To hear and to prevent
Being taken of context,
Crossing invisible lines,
Driving through invisible signs.
And I keep silence up against the hail
Of flashing buzzwords, fads to deride.
Not combative, not even filled with pride
For something nobody can choose
For something nobody can lose.
Don’t break but bend at the derision.
For I am not myopic vision.
Maybe glasses make me look wise
But I’m myself with different eyes.
And we must face obvious facts;
I’m still myself with less ear wax.
Or if my hair is not as mangled–
But some things can’t be disentangled.
And I suppose it would be nice
To be who I assume I was,
The flippant teenager, because
The flippant teenagers can take
The news of their people’s mistake.
Your race. Your creed. Your land. Your fault
Each pollution and each assault.
And shrug it off, go on their way
And live and hear the same next day
This barrage, current and historical,
Unforgiving and categorical
And do not crack. And do not scream.
And don’t melt down. Maybe not dream–
–Well, everything comes at a price.
I cannot whistle, cannot wink.
My muscles aren’t malformed, I think,
But how to translate, mind to head?
I cannot hear what isn’t said.
I think in abstracts, words and chords and math.
If I were truly the anti-empath
That’d be easier. But instead I care
At least about whether things are fair.
At least when I become attached to text
Whose absence makes me rather vexed.
The voice in the book, or behind the other screen.
The stats for that one pitcher or one batter.
They’re gone and I don’t know why it would matter
Except in the fact that I almost mourn
For the unreal, for what was never born.
So till I learn silence
I sing; no anthems these
But quiet, half-remembered melodies.
The words are new. The words are parodies.
Nothing too modern, fit in a taut line;
If nothing else, at least they’re mine.