autism, disability, poetry

Poetry as AAC

Content Note: mentions of misogyny, anti-LGBTQ+ attitudes, ableism, racism

this is a poem about
how i communicate and
how i think and
why that matters

i don’t think in
big beautiful sentences with
periods at the end but only at the
right end, not the end
i want, or in
paragraphs with a topic and
evidence and
a conclusion to boot – i think in
verses and stanzas and
illustrations of a butterfly
beating its wings over and
over, one flap for every word:

and the word-phrase on
my mind is
augmentative & alternative communication, those
things You use when You
just can’t speak because my
natural humanmind language isn’t
speaking it isn’t pretty syntax it’s breaking
all the rules,

like poetry

does because poetry isn’t bound to the same
horrid rules as prose; poetry never demands
a period here or a citation there (not that You
can’t use those things in poetry); poetry doesn’t
strike points off when You trail off or
fail to capitalize i or decide to capitalize You
instead because –

this is where You breathe, now,
if You haven’t so far –

poetry is a reed bending in
the wind, a rainbow slinky gyrating
back-forth-back-forth demonstrating
P- and S-waves of
an earthquake, a cake that almost
nearly falls but doesn’t; all these
things that that look like they could
break but don’t,

whereas prose must break, prose
must end on a dot and a
breath where You expect it
to, prose must fit a standard of
typical communication that’s set
by people with Social Power; that is,

so poetry then is a natural haven for
anyone whose brain bends (not
breaks) when presented with the
structure and function and discipline of
neurotypical prose (period end of sentence
topic evidence conclusion OR two sentences
per paragraph always no matter what OR
break here there wherever but break, break,
and here is how to structure a block quote what even
IS a block quote – four fucking years of college research and
i’m still not sure) do You see do You understand why
poetry works for me even when prose fails?

there’s Your end of sentence (a question
mark) but i refuse to dignify any declarative end
here with a period full stop – periods are boring and
i won’t use them even if
they would make sense like here so:

(and truth be told, i refuse to use a period
full stop
anywhere here because this poem is
demonstrative, this poem is
a lesson, this poem is
an example of what i’m trying
to do and say and so i
decide: i refuse to conform to
neurotypical constructs; i refuse to
use period full stop just to make this
more understandable to people who
me –
it’s not like they make
their language
accessible to me,

if i speak prose, the Normal Language,
all my problems communicating dissolve because
prose tells You where to
breathe and
respond and
listen and how to response – prose
has rules and prose sounds Normal unlike

the slippery tongue of my AAC device, where
You’re (the general You) never sure where how why to
respond to me, the freak with mechanical voice –

but poetry, You realize, is not
mechanical, nobody ever wrote a manual for
an airplane or a dishwasher or a keyboard in
poetry (why not, I ask) and here is the
speech is supposed to flow lyrical, be
more better than mere words, be
something to listen to (like poetry!) but
words on paper are supposed to be chunk
in all their structured paragraphs and
neat lines that spill ink across the page even
when i would rather end where i want, where
You want, where we want, i don’t want to
follow these rules that supposedly make it
EASIER to communicate; these rules have never
been easy for me never been natural never
actually made sense beyond rote memorization

poetry is the ebb and flow and breath and heave of
what spoken word is supposed to be, except
that my mind is backwards, my mind works the
opposite of what it’s supposed to do and i
know that typical is not normal, that there is
no value judgment in communication but i
still can’t shake the feeling that poetry is lesser and
i therefore am lesser when

we teach poetry as an afterthought when poetry is the
stuff of indignant marginalized people when we
code poetry as femme gay unequal whatever –
if You were a real man, you’d write the
Great American Novel, not some shitty
sonnet (except maybe a love sonnet to
Your girlfriend but even that is
suspect queer) –
some jerkoff at the arts faire laughs,
says “i’m not going to pay $15 for
poems” well if that chapbook was a
novella You sure would, buddy, but
You do You i hope You fall in a hole

and do we need poetry? do we need
autism? do we need anything, anykind
of diversity? no but this world is boring when
Your choices are novel or novel or
one-hundred-thirtieth book about the
civil war written by some neo-con(federate/servative) who
wants to apologize for slavery but
doesn’t want to get dinged for it so
let poetry live and breathe and stay here

poetry gives up the rules; gives up any
semblance of needing organization; lets me
relish in the chaos and so i create my own

the lines end when i want them
to not when the page or the
word processor want
them to; punctuation is an after-
thought and i don’t like thinking too
hard; the whole thing needs to feel
natural; and sometimes natural just means

[insert Your favorite scream here]

now, listen to me, darling, hear the
gears churning and clunking in my mind and
hold tight to me as i tell You it’s going to
be okay – maybe hopefully – and
i swear to you that all
communication is good, every
radio wave of the mind and soul has
a place in its place, that we go forth in
all the ways we can say i love You and
maybe someday i will write You a dishwasher
manual in free verse