cat and fiddle underground

violin burrows
underground to meet brown cat
singing songs of mud
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For my friend, who is upset, and half a world away.

If I visited you right now
I would not say a word

I would confuse the TSA agents
By filling my suitcase
With soil and dead redwood needles
And chunks of granite

And when we met
I would hand you
A sturdy piece of granite
Straight from the Sierras

But I would not talk
I would not type
I would not say a word

I would find a place
By the side of the road
Full of rocks and debris

I would sit with my legs
Splayed apart like a W
And arrange the rocks
On the sides of my knees
And stack them
In the perfect order

And then I would arrange more rocks
In front of me
And you would be there
And we would start handing rocks
Back and forth to each other
Trusting each other
To put them in the right arrangement

And if any cats came by
We might photograph them
Or sniff their noses
(If they allowed us the courtesy)
And always respect
Their fundamental catness

I would have bought you
A bag of blue marbles
Somewhere along the way
And I would hand you the bag
And look away
As the sky turned to twilight
And perfectly matched
The blue of the marbles

And I would never speak
And I would never type
And I would never say a word

You speak my language
Do you know how rare that is?

For anyone who speaks my language
And does it so well
I would travel to the ends of the earth
With a suitcase full of soil and granite
And spend the whole day
And never have to type
Not a single word

I would stand outside your borders
With rocks in my hands
And you would stand outside my borders
With rocks in your hands

And somehow
The rocks would exchange hands

And somehow
We would build
A sculpture of rocks
In between us
That said everything
That no word
Ever could

If you wanted
I would cover you in rocks
As you lay in the dirt
So that you could feel
The rocks weighting you down
Tying you back to the earth
Under its protection
Away from the things
That are hurting you

But only if you wanted

These are the languages
I know how to speak best:

I speak Rock
I speak Tree
I speak Redwood Sorrel
I speak Soil
I speak Lichen
I speak Moss
I speak Dirt
I speak Mud
I speak Water-and-Earth
I speak Creek
I speak Fire
I speak Autistic (some dialects)

I will speak any of these languages
And more that I have not named
If any of them
Will make you feel better

I may not always be a good friend
I may not always remember you exist
I may go months forgetting about you

But when I remember
I will do anything
If it will make you feel better
What I lack in memory
I make up for in loyalty and love

I can’t guarantee that I will always be there
But I can guarantee that when I am there
I will be there — all the way there
And I will be there for you
To the best of my ability
Because that is what being a friend is about

And I will not speak
I will not type
I will not utter a single word
Through a keyboard
Or a PECS symbol
Or anything else

You don’t need more words right now
You need experiences
You need ties to the sensory world
You need rocks, lots of rocks
You need friends who don’t condescend
You need to see cats
You need people who speak your language

We can hand each other rocks
I can help you arrange them
In a style that blends both of ours
And shows
To anyone with eyes to see
(Which is almost nobody, mind you)
That we are friends
That we have collaborated
That the work is a blend of both of us

And that is our language
For any bystanders
Who may be confused
Reading a poem
About the language of rocks
As spoken by
Two autistic people

Each rock that we arrange
Has a place, and a meaning
We know these rocks inside out
We know where the rocks want to be
And we put them there

It becomes a collaboration
Between you
Between me
Between the rocks
Between the ground
And in the end
It is more than it was
In the beginning

After we are gone from that place
Some people will see a bunch of rocks
Some people will see art
Some people will see sculpture
A very few people will see
Two friends
Collaborating with rocks and the earth
To show all the connections
We can’t show to others
If they don’t speak Rock

And I would not speak
And I would not type
And I would not use picture symbols
And I would not use sign language
And I would not use words
And I would not use ideas

But exchanging rocks
And making rock piles
Would tell us each
More about the other
Than any words

But I can’t fly
And I don’t have enough granite
For my suitcase
And all of this
Is just a dream
Of what I would do for you
If I could

So I have to type
I have to paint a picture
Using words
To show you what I would do
If I only could
To show you that I care
About your happiness
To show you that
I can speak Autispeak
When I need to

And most of all
To give you a break
From all that is harming you
So that when you face it again
You will face it with renewed energy
Renewed resolve
To face it in whatever way you want to
Not just the way they corral you in

I would give you lapis lazuli
And tiger’s eye
And black tourmaline
And moss agate
And amber
And granite

Rocks in your pocket
And rocks in your hand
Will tell you more about
Your place in the world
Than any group of people
Will ever be able to tell you

Rocks in your pocket
And rocks in your hand
Will dance with you
And sing to you
In words only you can hear
They will give you strength
That only rocks can give

Remember to listen
Hear them singing
To the rocks in the ground
And the sand that once was rocks
They sing of things
That only rocks know

And when you face the people
Who condescend to you
Even about the rocks
Who see you as an adult-size child
The rocks in the pocket
Will weigh you down
So the people can’t push you up
Into the air
Without your permission

I can’t give you rocks
I can’t make rock sculptures with you
I can’t sit in the dirt by the side of the road
And find rocks everyone has forgotten
And stack them in towers on my knees
These are things I can’t do with you

But I want to
And that should count for something
I hope it’s enough
Even if just barely enough
For you to know
I want to do these things
I want to speak our mutual autistic languages
I want to leave words behind
Just for a time
I want to show you
What can be possible

And that is what I would do
If I could do it
But maybe just writing about it
Will have to be enough

And most of all
I want to create a sanctuary
Where you don’t have to talk
Unless you want
And you don’t have to let anyone in
Unless you want

And you can take the love of our friendship
Back out into the world
With the rocks in your pockets
And the rocks in your hands
And know that the rocks
Will love you
And protect you
In the way only rocks know how

Your Air and My Air

I may not be
The sort of person who can
Soar through the clouds
As if my intellect has wings
I’ve told you this
So many times
You might tire of hearing it

You might tire of hearing how
The soil of the redwoods sustains me
And gives me a knowledge
Wholly unlike your own

But I am
The sort of person who
Can scramble up the redwood trees
And as long as I remain safe in their branches
Connected to the earth through their trunks
And as long as I remain connected to water
Through the mist they drink in through their leaves

Then I can take in the air, the heights
I can think far and wide
I can put words together

I can do all those airbound intellectual things
Without the benefit of wings
As long as I stay connected
To the mist and the soil

So don’t write me off as saying
There’s no place in my life
To be up in the air
I just get there differently than you do

And my mind works differently
Because of its constant connection
To the ground and the mist
Without which I become hopelessly disoriented
Because my air is not your air
And going where you go…
It feels too much like endless falling
Tumbling without anything to anchor me
— I’ll stick to the trees, thank you.

Falling Out Of Your World

I fell out of your world today
And landed in the dirt
I knew the name of every plant
Of every tree and mushroom

You can’t know what this meant to me
This knowledge without thought
In your world, wit is easily won
It’s your solace and your weapon

In my world, it’s like flecks of soil
That pile up with each passing year
It grows slowly and naturally
My mind doesn’t soar through the clouds

I looked up at your world today
You seemed so happy up there
Because you do soar through the clouds
Your mind eats equations for breakfast

You can’t imagine life down here
It’s too slow and too ordinary
For days at a time I do nothing
But soak myself into the soil

But the soil talks to me
Like the clouds talk to you
And from the underground depths
Understanding flows up to me

I know that you love your life
Where the breeze brings you words
And the clouds carry equations
And you can dart everywhere
With a touch of your wings

But I love my life
I have deep roots in the dark places
Water springs up from the soil
And understanding can only happen
By listening to things without voices

I am a thing without a voice
Perhaps that is why I belong down here
And not up where the voice of the wind
Sings unceasing words of knowledge
To people whose heads fill with words

I fell out of your world today
And I thanked the gods of mist and soil
Of the dark and the damp
Of the roots and the trees

Because you may thrive in your world
But to me, it’s a lightning storm in my head
And I belong curled up inside the ground
At the feet of a redwood tree

A Poem About Realness (1999)

In the center of the wood in tangled gnarling knots I sit
In every part of every tree I grow the waiting path
The light that filters through the trees reflecting colors dark and deep
The stars that glimmer through the leaves reflect me just the same

The roots that travel searching deep and ancient through the darkened soil
The smell of earth that tells you more than any sight can say
The deepened grooves inside the bark that guide you winding wondering
The stillness deepness permeates and holds within the path

The moss is dangling from the outer branches of the tallest trees
The higher branches reaching leaves and needles to the sun
The warmth and cool unearthened sound that makes the forest what it is
The paths they take all from one place which in all paths begun

I sing the song that comes from there and blends and sharpens in the trees
That changes still and stays the same and shines in forest light
That twists and turns and follows flying endless into from the path
Where travelers and wanderers may in the end find me

A wanderer might find the path in smallest roots and gnarling trees
The spaces in between the trees might show the path as well
The forest and the stars will show emerging patterns still the same
And if the forest brings you fear, then you have not found me

The ancient stillness of the wood reflected from and through my world
For at the center lies the path and in the path is me
However wild the wind may blow the movement of my path remains
For if you fear the forest’s edge then you have not found me