Autistic

—for Danny, 1949-1976

When you caught that bird in flight,
that was a wild moment, the reflex of it,
as if you’d had the mind and eyes of a hawk,
as if in your world, mysterious to us all,
mother father sisters brothers—
as if in that world you flew above
less bewildered than we,
island brother,
eagle-eyed and quick,
but whose aerie was ringed
by an invisible moat

At that time there was not even a name
for your bright, distant, blinking galaxy
so they dredged up whatever seemed useful
from their spent nomenclature:
retarded, they said,
as if a boy who could snatch a bird in flight
had a slow mind.
          they should have more accurately called you
distant, as if a galaxy 10 billion light years away,
as far from us as our understanding
of what made you tick

So my mind was no help in knowing you.
Conveniently hobbled I excused myself
from the work of understanding.
Now I see you were in no way slow but
full of crushing frustration, confined by your moat
at the center of your island inarticulate
to the point of slamming your head with a palm
to jar loose what you could not say,
not tongue-tied but mind-tied,
kept by genetic leash from joining
our world of connection, striving to snap it
so that you might join in our jokes
……………………… ……join in our sadness
or have us join with you in yours

And all the while I circled your moat
in relative freedom. I gazed across seeing you
self-contained to the point of desperation
jangling mom’s ring of measuring spoons
next to your ear, gone in the small joy
of hearing the peal of their teaspoon bells
but…………….
……….. dropping them 
………… at the quick flicker of wings
……..….to catch your bird

Jim Culleny
4/13/18

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