So here is the poem that led to me writing this book. It got lots of feedback wherever it went, and even won a prize. I started to feel like there was a lot more where that came from. New Zealand poet and doctor Glenn Colquhoun saw a (much longer) early draft and told me it needed to be a whole collection of poems. I agreed. So did the ACT Government – they gave me a grant to work on it one day a week. Now I am writing it lots of brothers and sisters. The full CircleQuirk collection of autism poems is coming out in April 2012.
This particular poem explores the frightening and bewildering world of an autistic child, assaulted by everyday sounds most of us don’t even notice. Some of what happens in the poem has happened to my son, the rest has happened to children I know.
autistic child with acute auditory processing disorder
in the foetal position in the museum toilets, hands clamped over my ears, shrieking
trying to say there’s a dryer, there’s a dryer, any second now someone will set it off
the sound will be a faceful of boiling water
I’m sorry, your patient explanations are not getting through. It’s a very bad line.
at the indoor swimming pool, crouched behind the waterslide, poo-ing into my damp trunks
trying to say I have to get out, the echoes are attacking me in four dimensions, I’m on a bad trip and I can’t come down
at the washing line, moaning and trying to burrow under the grass
trying to say there’s a bird, there’s a bird, it’s going to swoop down and screech in my ear
the sound will ice-pick my skull
Your cognitive behaviour therapy is not getting through at all. It is a very bad line.
at a birthday party, buried under cushions and wailing like a siren
trying to say I can’t stand it, the music and the voices are tearing at me, pecking me apart
in my bedroom after school, kicking my baby sister in the face
trying to say go away, go away, you’re noisy, you’re unpredictable
I’ve been clinging to a cliff face for six hours and you’re dangling yourself from my ankles
sprinting straight into traffic, terrified of a toy poodle on the footpath
trying to say there’s a dog, there’s a dog, it’s going to bark
the sound will slug me like a sandpaper boxing glove
Your elaborate reward and punishment system, your guilt trips, your lectures, your bellowing and tears aren’t getting through either. This is a very bad line.
Published in Quadrant magazine, Jan-Feb 2011