New Moon in Spring

sun goes down, no moon
darkness crosses young grasses
protects baby birds

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Wings of Midnight Velvet

The darkness enfolds me in black velvet wings
She holds me close and she holds me tight
She whispers to me of unspeakable things 
Only understood in the darkest of night
Like a lone hermit thrush, she hauntingly sings 
You are safe here with me until morning’s light
Here in the shadows where everything blends
The darkness and me are the closest of friends

Monsters on your side

A giant monster came into my room
She had big fangs for teeth
And shaggy hair on her face and arms
Huge claws in her front paws and feet

I was scared of her, I’ll admit it now
Especially when she roared
Her mouth got so big it split her face
And drool from her teeth, it poured

I thought she was going to eat me
Or at least bite off my arm
But it turned out she would do neither
She’d come to protect me from harm

The monster and I are now best friends
We love to walk down the street
Holding each other, hand-in-paw,
And scaring the people we meet

For it’s not every day you meet a monster
And not every day she deflects
All of your ideas about monsters
By showing up to protect

All I can say is with fangs like those
And claws of such giant size
To meet a monster like the one she is
I’m just glad she’s on my side

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Return to sender: no longer at this address

My mother is a wizard with plants
I kind of knew it already
But when my father was upset
Because he'd never see the morning glories
Bloom again in his life
My mother secretly coaxed
A morning glory vine
Out of season
To bloom, and climb, to bloom, and climb
And she took him outside
To show him the magic she'd done
And that's how much my mother loves my dad

My flowers are my poetry
I coax the words to bloom and grow
And climb and climb into his heart
Even out of season
I use words to express the wordless
And that's one kind of magic I have
And that's how much I love my dad

But one of these days
I'm going to write a poem
It will be full of obscure mountain lakes
And treks across the mountains to the sea
And forest floors that were so much more
And owls hooting up in the trees
It will show him every place
That I could feel his love
Without the emotional bombardment
Of living in the city

And it will be a perfect poem
For that time and that place
It will certainly be better than this one
It will show him that I care for him
(As if he doesn't know by now)
It will show the depth of love
That death can dredge up when you're lucky

And then i will get a phone call or an email
It will start out:
“Go and take your dexamethasone right now.”
And I'll have a sinking feeling
But I'll take the syringe of steroids
And put it in my feeding tube
Then go back to the phone or the computer

Then they'll say
“The news is bad
Your father has passed away
He was far too tired this morning
To check your blog today.”

And all that's left of my magic
Will be words on a screen
Words he may have understood
But will never hope to read

From that point on forwards
We'll be separated by time
We both will have existed
But from that point in time onwards
I will be here and he won't

I wonder how much dexamethasone it takes
To avoid adrenal crisis when your dad dies
I wonder how much magical love it takes
To stand the pain you feel when you realize

That you will never talk to him again
You'll never hug him again
You'll never sit next to each other
With an elderly cat spread across your laps
You'll never ask the questions
You forgot to ask when he was alive
You'll never play with his beard again
And there's so little time
There's so little time

But I'm wrong
Like people are often wrong about time
Eternity is all around us
That's all the time in the world
Eternity is where love exists
Outside of time and space
So even if he never reads my best poems
He'll feel the love that went into them
Just as he feels the love
From that morning glory vine

He feels the love from his two pet dogs
He feels the love from his wife
He feels the love from his three adult children
He says he's lucky to be surrounded
By so much love

So I'm terribly sorry, Ron
If some of my poems don't reach you in time
And i'm terribly sorry Ron
If I try to Skype you and it turns out you're gone
Just know I love you more
Than even the best poet can convey
I love you more than I could ever say

And love is the magic that made my mom
Able to grow those morning glories
And love is the magic that makes me able
To write poems daily after years of dormancy
And love is the magic that connects you to me
It's the way we can feel each other's love
Without any form of contact at all

I hope the place I built for you outside of time
And filled to overflowing with my love
Will see you through

And I hope that I'll continue
Writing poetry to you
Long after you've gone

And I hope it reaches you in Eternity
Or wherever it is you're going

And I hope that even the worst of it
Conveys this message:

I love you
I love you
I love you

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

When asked to choose between politics and friendship, I choose friendship.

[Note: There are disability slurs in this post, and I deliberately chose some of the worst ones I could think of (as well as some words that can be offensive but aren’t slurs), in order to make the point of exactly how much I will choose friendship over politics.  So don’t read it if the r-word and such are going to upset you.]

If
And only if
You have the deepest love in your heart
And the deepest respect in your bones
Then
You can call me retard
And I will not be offended

If our every interaction
Shows that your respect for me
Has deep roots
That dig into the soil
And bring up clear water
To nourish both of us

If our every interaction
Shows you serving us tea
Made of the water of life
Steeped in love
For as long as it takes

If the music of life
Makes us resonate
Down to the very bones
As if whoever made us
Made our bodies sing
In perfect harmony

Then it’s okay with me
That you talk about my disabilities
As a tragic personal obstacle
That I am brave to overcome

And it’s okay with me
That you call me words
Like retard, and cripple, and idiot savant

And I would rather spend time with you
Oh how I would rather spend time with you
Than someone who has memorized
The list of ableist words
And directed the community to shun
Anyone who says them
Especially the worst of them, retard

I would rather spend time with you
Than with the people who shun you
Gladly and openly
Happy to have a target for their anger
At an ableist world

And understand
To me the two worst words in the world
To call a human being
Are retard and vegetable
And yet I would let you call me those things
And prefer your company
To the company of some people
Who understand all too well
The destructive power of those two words

Make no mistake about it:
These are words that draw blood
They are words that kill
They are words that have already done
More killing than you could ever imagine

I don’t deny
That when you say these words
They strangle me
They threaten to leave me for dead
They draw blood
They punch me in the gut
And you are oblivious to this

But when people shun you
They are saying
“You are a bigot and I am not
Because I hide my bigotry
Better than you hide yours.”
They are saying
“I have the skills to look shiny
And you don’t
Nanny nanny boo boo
I’m the winner
Of the social game.”

Every person I have ever met
Is a bigot in some way
Every person I have ever met
Has viewpoints
That cut, that punch, that draw blood
Even that kill

The people who can hide that side of themselves
Fare better in these parts of the world
That I seem to frequent lately
They can play the social game
They can land on top
Even if they have not an ounce
Of love or respect
In their hearts
Or their bones

Nobody announces to the world
“Here comes an ableist bigot, shun them!”
Even if they are more bigoted than you
And less loving and respectful

You are one of those rare people
Who allows hard-core love
To flow through you
And influence everything you do
Who roots their every action
In respect

But you don’t just say the wrong words
You say the worst words
The words that even I agree
Are terrible, bone-crunching slurs
That rip my heart out of my chest
Still beating
Words that tell me
I may be in mortal danger

So nobody can see your love
They are too busy seeing the slurs you use
To see who you are

Yet still, I love you
I can’t help loving you
Your love and respect
Nourish both of us

I don’t ask anyone to feel sorry for you
I don’t ask anyone to excuse your bigotry
I don’t ask anyone to like the words you use

But I would ask some questions:

Why are you worse
Than the people who
Erase the word retard from their lips
But not from their hearts?

Why single you out
When every last one of us has opinions
That draw blood, that destroy
That maim, that kill?

Why target people for community shunning
Instead of looking inwards at ourselves
And our own secret bigotries
That we are loath to change?

Why do we measure people
By their ability to not do something
That signals bigotry
On a shallow level
Rather than
By their ability to do something
That signals love and respect
On a deeper level?

You have clasped your fingers
Interlocking with my fingers
And formed a connection
That stood against a hostile world

You have stood in front of me
When other people threw rocks
You have taken beatings for me
And made sure nobody forgot
Not to mess with you

You have proven to me
That I can trust you
With my life

You have proven to me
That I can trust you
With the words
That normally take my life away

Retard Vegetable Cripple Psycho Lunatic
You can say them all
And I will trust you
With these verbal weapons
Of mass destruction

I will trust you, you saying those words
Over those who would never say those words
But would never stand in front of me
To take blows that were meant entirely for me

I will trust you, you saying those words
Over those who would never say those words
But would never touch me
Much less clasp my hand in love

I will trust you, you saying those words
I will defend you, you saying those words
I will not desert you, you saying those words
I will not shun you, you saying those words

I will not participate
I will simply not participate
In the way my community treats people
Who say those words

Because there is always context
Because sometimes that context involves
Love
Self-sacrifice
Protection
Respect
Inner beauty
Connection
Community

And all of those are more important
Than words
No matter how much blood the words draw
No matter how much they hurt
No matter how much suffering and death
They may be connected to

I will not participate in social sanctions against you
I will not make it clear to every passerby that you embarrass me
I will not apologize for your behavior
I will not renounce our friendship

Maybe nobody understands
Maybe nobody needs to —
We have something
Much more deeply rooted
Than the worst slur
Could sever

Two Wombs

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth
I may not believe in your god, but I believe in that
In the depths of the redwood soil
Underneath the Mother Tree
My soul was woven together
Just as my human mother
Wove together my molecules
Inside her womb

I am the child of two wombs:
My body belongs to my mother
My soul belongs to the redwoods
I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Intertwined between the redwood soil of my soul
And the humanity of my body
You knit me together in my mother’s womb

I know how to knit, to weave, to crochet
I know the cord used by any god is love
They weave us together in love
Love creates us
Love ignites us
Love drives us
Love surrounds us
Love completes us

My mother is my mother
And the Mother Tree is the mother of my soul
Her soil has created me and Her soil will transform me in death
Where I will meet Love in its most untarnished form

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth
The redwood sorrel grew all around me
It pushed its way up through the soil
And greeted the sun
Which sang to it a love song
A love song about nourishment
And the redwood sorrel carpeted the ground

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth
The soil was moist, and I absorbed so much moisture
When my friend told me how watery am I, I was confused
I always associated myself with earth
But the earth in a rainforest is saturated with water
Just like the air is saturated with mist
You can’t escape water in a rainforest
So I am filled to the brim with water
(Watery earth, earthy water)

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth
The Mother Tree gave me Her protection
No matter where I go, no matter what happens to me
No matter what happens to Her
I am under the protection of a small redwood forest
In San Mateo County

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth
I was in a small area of the forest
If you look for it with only your eyes
You will miss it completely
You will drive right by it

But if you listen to the music of the Mother Tree
If you feel for the parts of the forest
That shine with a light brighter than you can imagine
If you listen with every atom in your body
Then you will find the place
Humans have our own name for it
Trees don’t need a name
It’s a small section of the redwood forest
But it is sacred

Don’t ask me who it is sacred to
It is sacred
That is enough
It is sacred to me
But it is sacred to itself
And that matters more

I am one human being
Who has been allowed and invited
To take part in its sacredness
To worship with the forest

And it may not be the words of my redwood religion
But it might as well be:

For you created my inmost being
You knit me together in my mother’s womb
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made
Your works are wonderful
I know that full well
My frame was not hidden from you
When I was made in the secret place
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
All the days ordained for me were written in your book
Before one of them came to be
How precious are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
They would outnumber the grains of sand —
When I awake, I am still with you.

[Psalm 139:13-18, New International Version]

So just as I was being made in my mother
I was being made in the earth
I belong to my mother
And I belong to the soil
And I belong to the redwoods
And the Mother Tree
For as long as I live
And as long as I die
There is no gratitude or love enough
For this