Thursday, 8 September 2011

Autism poem: An autistic woman explains the terror of affection

Hello again ! My name is Melinda Smith, and I am mother to two boys, aged seven and four. My seven year old has an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I am also a poet. Read more here
This is the third in a series of seven autism poems I will be sharing with you as a guest poster on the Scottish Autism blog.

This one is in the voice of a young autistic woman.
It is inspired by Donna Williams’ book Nobody Nowhere, in which she describes how feeling affection and closeness with another person was a terrifying experience for her, and made her fear that she would be ‘swallowed up’. She did, however, sometimes feel closeness with inanimate objects, and objects associated with certain loved people would become very special to her. It is an extremely powerful book – highly recommended.

My poem also takes as a jumping-off-point the poem ‘Circle and Square’ by Edwin Muir (an Orcadian, born 1887 in Deerness). Muir's poem was about the opposite problem to Donna Williams' (and one more common in neurotypical 'love') - it explores the desire to totally lose yourself in your beloved. I have quoted Muir's last stanza at the start of my poem. The full Muir poem can be found here.
I should also acknowledge that the poem was written with the financial support of artsACT.
So, here goes...

Give, but have something to give.
No man can want you all.
Live and learn to live.
When all the barriers fall
you are nothing at all.   
        – Edwin Muir, ‘Circle and Square’.

An autistic woman explains the terror of affection

A rushing of the sea:
your smile is drowning me -
I have to fight to live.
Why can’t you let me be ?
I feel in negative:
Distress is all you give.

Lost as I have been
I dare not let you in
however loud you call.
I cower in my skin
I curl into a ball.
No man must have me all.

You want to show you care?
You will not reach me there,
that is not where I live.
Just barely touch my hair
- that, I may forgive.
Live, and let me live.

Or give me for my own
a button or a stone -
something smooth and small  -
and when I am alone
I’ll feel you through this wall.
But when the barriers fall

I cannot meet your eye;
you stab me when you try
to look at me at all.
To let you is to die.
I’ll go under, I’ll fall -
I’ll be nothing at all.

(c) Melinda Smith 2011

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