Tag Archives: poetry

An Autistic Hosts An Open Mic, And Other News

In November I was officially diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). It’s such a relief to finally have objective confirmation. I’d suspected for three years before that, since a friend suggested I take the Aspie Quiz (a research-based online quiz which seems to be a common starting point for autistics not diagnosed in childhood, as well as a good way to learn about autism). It took so long because I had trouble finding anyone who’d test adults for ASD in New Mexico, and though I found a number of qualified doctors in Washington, it took me a year to find one who’d accept Medicare.

As I’ve become more aware of how autism shapes my life, it’s become a more defined theme in my poetry. Two recent poems dealing with autistic meltdowns (among other things) are in the current issue of Wordgathering: A Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature. The text is accompanied by audio recordings. The subject also cropped up in my poetry long before I suspected or knew anything about it. It seems pretty obvious now in this poem from my first book, “god-chaser”:

Glassless

She squints and unsquints,

makes letters resolve

and dissolve on the blackboard.

She’s six years old,

can say it properly now,

though she recalls with a blush

how she used to say

she’s tree years old.

 

She reminds herself

she can add and subtract

better than anyone,

even if she can’t

make the letters stay straight

long enough to copy them.

If she could, she’d subtract

herself from the room.

 

Pencils scratch fast

all around her. She can’t unblur

the bent faces either,

can’t mark the lines

of their easy play,

can’t find a smile

in the haze of their lips.

 

(A note on the poem: Though I now use gender-neutral pronouns ze/zir or they/them, I’ve kept the feminine-gendered pronouns in the poem because, while I had already started identifying as neither a boy nor a girl, I knew of no correct pronoun to change to when I was six.)

In other news, the literary open mic I’ve been organizing in Bremerton is moving to the Downtown Bremerton Library on second Wednesdays starting January 10, 6-8 p.m. (RSVP on Facebook or Meetup.) Open mic host is kind of a funny occupation for an autistic. I can do it because I have Bob to take on the parts of the job that are beyond me (like the essential mysteries of small talk), or to take over hosting entirely when, as occurred once already in the fall, I’m too overwhelmed by noise/light/motion/etc. (aka sensory overload) to speak aloud or do anything but refrain from having a meltdown (supposing I can manage that much). I’m hoping the library will be a more sensory-friendly space, where I can be more sociable as well as take in more of the literary libations being offered. If you’re in Kitsap, hope to see you there!

New Books: Courting Hunger and A God’s Life

The two books I’ve been working on over the past 11 years are at last ready to be released in November. Through fictionalized autobiography, “Courting Hunger” explores love, family, friendship, identity, sex, drugs, rock & roll, sickness & health. In “A God’s Life,” an exiled spy god working at a queer video store in Washington Heights reflects on his past loves and wars and tries not to start any new ones.

To be among the first readers and help fund publication, check out the Kickstarter campaign, ending Sunday, Oct. 11.

Book cover images
In “A God’s Life” and “Courting Hunger,” an exiled spy god and a human deal with their addiction to loving doomed mortals.

Listen to a bit of last night’s reading

A couple poems, one by Bob and one by me, from last night’s Fixed & Free Poetry Reading. I’ll add a few more another day.

Eat

The women next door are fighting.
Will there be makeup sex I can also hear thru the wall?
I doubt it. They’re usually quiet,
the one like a frazzled athlete, the other
a frazzled academic, and usually
light enough to be friendly.
They even slam doors reticently, politely.

You and your dad ran off to the North,
like the Blade Runner, to photograph the balloons.
I found out after eleven years you don’t like Donovan.
I would’ve played him just as much,
just felt more apologetic about it.
I’m trying to stay on the strong and fertile side of things
and not dissolve into hardness of heart.

For the party this afternoon,
I’m cooking another thing
it took you forever to tell me you didn’t like.
Every year you’d identify a new ingredient as the problem
till it added up to all of them.
Today I’ll be among more breathing people
than in a long time, it seems.

Possibility,
even the kind that never comes about,
keeps me freely happy—and one actuality,
the feel of you under your skin.
For once, I didn’t get here by ignoring the terrible world.
I feed it to myself and it mixes with me.
I turn it into our body.

Pinocchio

The fairies circled my living room
in the house where the door was never locked.
I don’t remember where the women were—
Annie, who shared my yearning
for platanos and dulce de leche,
whose dad owned the house, and
Dorothy, who hoarded toilet paper
to clean up her boyfriend’s wayward cum.
Aidan was the only real boy, but this time,
I was disqualified for lack of wood.

I’d flattened my breasts as far as I could,
to a single bulging hump. My voice
had deepened, period stopped. It wasn’t enough.
Still, the guests talked around me
like I was one of the boys, some spreading their legs
and airing out their disgust
at the bits between female thighs.

Aidan and one or two others didn’t join
the hackneyed abuse, didn’t intervene.
Neither did I. We rationed our beers
round the carpet, silent or changing
the subject. It veered again to the villainous
blacks spreading AIDS. They couldn’t
see the irony. Was that the night I knew
I didn’t want to be a real boy?