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Wednesday 19 January 2011

Autistic Boy

(The prompt at Jingle Poetry this week was "Languages, Symbols and Signs".)

Imagine mapping feelings like colours on a chart;
each hue, each segment, with its private sign:
the 'word' for what it is or what it does.
To us his world seemed geometric in design,
its people, trees and animals, those Euclid might have drawn -
or doodled in a dream. To Tim
it was a world of raw emotions.

It took a while to tumble to the fact
that this was literature, not visual art,
that symbols such as plus and minus joined
or punctuated words - or sometimes were
for emphasis! His word
for 'brother' was his word for 'friend'.
If overlapping circles spiralled to the sky,
then what was understood was 'steam' or 'smoke' - his word
for 'railway engine', 'kettle', 'factory' or 'fire'.

Whatever was emotive, caused him fear
or gave an object value, was its signature,
engendered that electric charge.
The engine and the kettle shared the steam.
By that they were related, and to that
his symbol pointed. That was what he 'wrote'.
Each day he worked with pen or brush
refining as he went, teasing out new strands of feeling,
feeling for the life he sensed the others had.


The Weaver of Grass said...

Yes Dave, interesting poem. If only we could get into their minds. I think of that lovely black boy who did the most wonderful pen and ink sketches after the briefest of times looking at the building and yet got the number of windows right. We have such a lot to learn.

Shadow said...

you have a good perspective going here, opened up a different dimension to me.

Jim Murdoch said...

In some cultures ‘brother’ is used instead of friend – it’s not such a leap. It’s very hard to gauge how successful a poem like this is because none of us are autistic and so can’t say, “Oy, that’s not right,” but it makes sense and give us a feel for how an autistic person appears to view the world. It’s like the character I’m writing just now. In my notes I have written this: “I don’t feel emotions. I remember them.” It’s like hearing a blind person talk about colour. Who knows when they lost their sight? I keep forgetting when I'm writing her and attributing feelings to her that she probably doesn’t feel but she can fake. It’s fascinating to see how the brain finds a workaround when it encounters a problem.

Tabor said...

I agree with Shadow about how you seem to have been able to see from the inside here.

Louise said...

Not an easy poem to write for sure, but you brought us to his different world, and we were the better for the visit.

Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...

that this was literature, not visual art,
that symbols such as plus and minus joined
or punctuated words - or sometimes were
for emphasis! His word
for 'brother' was his word for 'friend'.
If overlapping circles spiralled to the sky,..

you have painted a magical imagery here, superb writing...



Dick said...

Moving, Dave. My son Reuben is on the autistic spectrum. Not very far along it, but some difficulty with social codes sets him slightly apart from his peers. Trying to interpret his interpretation of the negotiated realities by which we manage our transactions is, at times, very difficult and I feel for him in his relative confusion.

Linda Sue said...

Most appreciated, Dave. It is difficult to see from the perspective of one who sees so differently than most. It is also difficult to be patient with those on the edge , just barely on the spectrum of Asperger's or autism. They are there and they are not.

FashionPhD said...

u write really well:)

Kass said...

So sad....the life he feels others have.

Linda Bob Grifins Korbetis Hall said...

Some Awards 4 you, please help by visiting 2 or 3 poets to give birthday wishes, Thanks!

Your support is valued!

Unknown said...

You have given us away into the locked box of a mind that functions differntly to most people and therefore fro many is unfathomable, scarey, "mad". How gently, how loving you have done this.

Dave King said...

The Weaver of Grass
Absolutely. It's all guess work, backed up some research, of course. What seems most likely.
Some children do progress enough to be able to give some account of what it had been like, but then we know how unreliable are childhood memories.

It's a strange one, though. Shadows on the wall at best. Thanks for your comment.

I agree entirely with your opening comments - though maybe left wondering a bit how much a poem must rely on veracity for its success. We set out to be as truthful as we can be, but maybe a poem sometimes succeeds in spite of our failure or fails despite our success.

I can relate to your difficulty of getting inside the mind of a blind person. Such aspects of mental functioning fascinate me, though when it comes to colour, I'm not convinced that even we sighted folk can communicate meaningfully.

Thanks, though I think we should keep the emphasis on the word seem.

120 Socks
That's a very generous comment. I thank you for it.

Thanks a lot. Any success owed to the steer, I think.

I feel for both of you. I know from experience what the difficulties are, though experience seems to give few insights into them and fewer still into ways to alleviate them.

We are all feeling our way, I think. us and them.

Every blessing to you both.

Linda Sue
I think that says it beautifully: "They are there and they are not."
One thing I have found, is what ovely people most are who are included in the Asperger's spectrum, though I know that is not much help when the difficulties mount up.

Thank you for that.

Indeed. That, I think is the abiding feeling tht most folk have.

Thanks. Will do.

You are right. It is a locked box. One which is sometimes impossibly difficult to prise open. Thank you.