Love song of autistic husband


Poetry appearing on this page was produced with the generous support of artsACT

Yet another draft autism poem. This one is in the voice of a high functioning autistic husband talking to his neurotypical wife. It is not meant to be a portrait of a particular relationship, but it owes a lot to Edgar Schneider’s book Discovering My Autism and a little to the film Snow Cake.

The poem also explores a particular kind of slightly awkward, repetitive rhythm. I’d be really grateful for any feedback.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways
– Isaiah 55:8

Love song of autistic husband

It is pleasant to see you;
when I’m near you I’m happy –
and if ever you leave me
I will think it a pity –

but my love is not your love.
You assume that your feelings
are a halo around you
I could see if I tried to;

that your heart is a mystery
I could solve if I wanted –
but to me it’s an organ
and the secrets inside it

are just muscles contracting.
I am always a stranger
understanding you sideways
but I’ll always be loyal;

I can’t help being truthful
I remember the housework
and I’m there for the children –
surely these are important ?

Yet you say that you ‘need me
to be much more supportive’
or you ‘crave’ my ‘affection’
but ‘don’t want to be sexual’;

you protest I ignore you
that I’m cold and distracted –
but you might as well tell me
in Icelandic or Martian.

You insist I’m withholding
all my tenderness from you
but it’s not like a river
that I’ve slyly diverted:

it is more like an absence
like a cave or a sinkhole.
When we fight (so you tell me)
you are harrowed with terror

but my anger is over
when my voice has stopped shouting –
it is you seems to carry
little scars for a lifetime.

When I think of the future
I consider you dying:
what will stretch me to breaking
won’t be grief at your going

but the alien business
of the funeral, the lawyers.
My routine will be scrambled
I’ll be sick to my stomach

I will shout at the children
I will leave the wake early
and when later I’m solo
I will balk at your absence

I’ll be frightened and angry
  – but I don’t think I’ll cry.

(c) Melinda Smith 2011

4 thoughts on “Love song of autistic husband

  1. Lately, when I amongst child autistic support groups I often wonder which parent has the autistic characteristics.
    I wonder how the partners, who are often extremely empathetic, missed the cold, life by the numbers and jerky rhythm of an autistic adult. The poem extends this opinion.

    Then I realise that there are alot wonderful autistic people. Their faults and their attractions are just amplified.

  2. Found this posted on a friend’s thread in Facebook, and my first thought was “hang on, if autists are so bad at speaking emotions, how come they can write poetry?”. Thankfully, both my friend and Melinda took the time to explain things. There’s a lot I don’t know about this condition.

  3. Excellent. So moving. I’ve read maybe 6 of your poems in a row and now I think I need a box of tissues and a lie down. (I mean that as a compliment!)

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