An ESME Poetry Showcase Award submission
Notes to My Autistic Daughter
I. You are three and have not spoken,
except for minna minna minna
over and over again.
I study sign language
for mama and thank you and please
talking to you with my fingertips and words.
Paired like good wine and cheese
or peanut butter and jelly,
I invite you to come to this talking table.
II. In my every night dreams,
I brush my fingers under my chin, then under yours.
You follow my fingers with your eyes
And I see you mouth thank you
with language on lips, minus the air to propel the words.
You sign please
and take my hand,
pulling me into a meadow
of blue-petalled flowers
and baby’s breath
under a full and vibrating moon.
You sign dance
and climb onto my feet,
swaying us in the moonlight.
III. In our awake world,
I place the dusty contents of a Kool-Aid package
on your lips and mine.
I am inches from your face,
licking the Kool-Aid off my lips,
urging you to engage lips and tongue and teeth.
But your eyes are glassy and far away,
in a world I cannot see.
I pry a floor-length mirror off the wall,
plop you in my lap,
face us toward the mirror
and lick my lips again,
making cooing, smacking sounds,
delighting in the gritty sweetness on my lips.
Your jaw is set and firm.
No amount of mmmm good
will convince you to taste your own lips.
You are wandering in a faraway place.
And so I hold you
close against my soft places,
singing Minna Minna Minna
along with you,
following your lead,
rocking to the rhythms you compose.