Color (a modest plea)

It [autism] delays the most — delays or impairs for life —
the most human thing we have, which is our ability to look
into each other’s eyes and feel that other person’s existence
and what might be going on in their mind, and to empathize
with them.  That is denied — largely denied — to children with autism.”

— Robert MacNeil, as quoted in the Autism Now series

Crack open my veins, and tell me
that I don’t feel. Perhaps you might miss
the sparkle, the stardust, or the
spectrums that hop a ride on the backs of my blood cells
once they have leaped out of my DNA: but you won’t miss
the scarlet oozing from ripped-open wounds,
the black from the feathers that I keep pulling out of my throat,
or the clouded crystalline from the rain that sometimes
falls from my eyes. Look carefully: if you hold
a droplet up to the light, a rainbow might emerge
in spite of your disbelief.

Please understand something. Autism
is not a vacuous body, a carnal vessel devoid
of any essence. It was said that Martin Luther made that mistake
500 years ago, declaring what was likely an autistic boy to be
an empty CPU with a demonic operating system. There is
a soul, rising and sparkling up from the depths
where chakras glow and pulsate: and from there
is where the jubilation, rage, and tears may come. Our veins
are simply stripped open: look closely, and you will see
the circuitry hum and glisten.

And because we are stripped open, we also know
when you glow, when you throb, and when you
rage. Some of us are blind to the colors, and some of us
only see bold print. Some of us wear suits of armor,
shutting off receivers and retracting antennae
to make sure that we don’t detonate from signal overload.
A meltdown means all circuits are busy.
A lack of eye contact means we are crystalline
and breakable.

And if we are all a spectrum, then I am amethyst.
Royal. Aubergine. Keep listening. There is a little boy in Brooklyn,
enchanted by lampposts, who is sable and emerald
just like the giant streetlight gods that he admires. There is
a livestock expert in Colorado who is denim, red, and black
like the shirts she has carefully embroidered with cowboy language. I know
a poet in Georgia who can become carmine, sienna, or umber
like the mud beneath the feet of its millions of souls. And the
man that I love is black and white like the organ keys
that he pulls his music from. Now, tell me
that we don’t have color.

Please understand that we are transparent.
We burn and grow lucent by our faith, not by your sight,
for sight can be blind and we kindle and flare under
the cover of your eyes’ darkness. If not tempered, we might
absorb the whole world in our veins,
swallow skyscrapers into our bones,
and purloin every one of your gazes into our own: but it would all
be too much. Because of this, understand
that we cannot afford to expand without bursting our skins.
I will still watch you laugh, rage and weep: and when you do,
crack open my veins. You will see every reflection of yourself.
Yes, crack open my veins.
And tell me that I don’t feel.

Nicole Nicholson‘s prose can be found at Woman With Asperger’s, more of her poetry at Raven’s Wing Poetry.  Color (a modest plea) appears here by permission.

Nicole Nicholson’s soon-to-be published collection of poems is titled Novena.

[image via Flickr/Creative Commons]

on 04/28/11 in Art/Play/Myth, featured | 5 Comments | Read More

Comments (5)


  1. Gwen McKay says:

    Wow, this is powerful — so much intensity of feeling expressed in so few words. The repetition of “look,” “feel,” and “understand” makes clear what really is lacking in the way our society relates to, and often fails to empathize with, its autistic members.

    I hope you’ll post more here!

  2. Isabelle says:

    This is beautiful and powerful. I really like your poems. :)

  3. Visceral, intelligent and powerful. I can very much relate to this poem.

  4. Alexandrina S says:

    Thank you so very much. This is a brilliant poem.

  5. […] My poem, “Color (A Modest Plea)“, was published today in Shift Journal of Alternatives: Neurodiversity and social […]

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