Autism Screening Questionnaire: Social Interaction Difficulties

1. Does your child have poor eye contact? Does he stare from unusual angles?

Yes. Like a dark bird from a high perch.
Yes. With acetylene torches lit somewhere in the distance.
With eyes wide as the Morpho’s iridescence.
Yes. Wild and hot like fixed stars.

2. Does your child not seem to listen when spoken to directly?

We call it dappled thoughts. He is constantly dappled—
here and not here. He is a thrush hidden in the sage.

3. Does your child have excessive fear of noises? Does he cover his ears frequently?

With wind there are moments—agonies. Like the time
we found him covering his ears in a cement sewer pipe
during a storm or when he fled into the street, shocked
by the vacuum. Often we hold him hard to keep the world
from flooding in. Often the world is sirens.

4. Does your child seem like he is in his own world?

We mourn him daily. And yet he guides me by the hand
through the threshold of his room as one guiding someone
just off a train, gently and lightly, avoiding the gap between
the platform and the track. The heat from his hand,
combustion-warm. Old stove in which we’ve heated this house.

5. Does he lack curiosity about his environment?

Because the color of the red door renders it mute.
Because the color of the die-cast car is an empty blue
and the sound of our voices could be any possible starling
we are not here. He is not here. And what of the place you reside
if you don't reside in it? Where then does your body blink?

6. Do his facial expressions not fit situations?

Nulled into a thick disquiet. Mouth agape.
Agate of the eye catches quick the inseam and
no blemish. No, no turning away and no smile.
The contraption shuts its winking gap.

7. Does he cry inappropriately? Does he laugh inappropriately?

A soothing so honed it does not surface
or salvage the daily losses. Which are also sharp
vibratos of hums along the jawbone—the music’s
arrowing shot into the thalamus. A strobe’s command
and call. A conspiratorial ache.

8. Does he have temper tantrums? Does he overreact when he doesn’t get his way?

He is a dark and stabled bull kicking at the chained gate.

9. Does he ignore pain? For example, when he bumps his head, does he react?

If it strikes you can’t rescind it. Juncture to
the brain. Sharp cortical hurt into which
leap charges—synapse to synapse, but then a what?
A question asks its question. A hurt insists and yet.

10. Does he dislike touch? Doesn’t want to be held?

There’s something about proximity. The dutiful
belonging of atoms and how we relate
the world through our skin. The exposed parts
of ourselves and how those pavilions are brushed by
a plum tree’s wicked thorns.

11. Does he hate crowds? Does he have difficulties in restaurants and supermarkets?

Everyday he’s praying through the meanwhiles.
The sequences of. Not just aflutter, but alone
he sits on the periphery. Ears beside his little body.

12. Is he inappropriately anxious? Scared?

To soothe, the sound of humming through teeth. And so
a symphony of fears. The ventricular outbursts pleat
the clouds. The sky is always exploding
and in that delirum, a curdled tone.

13. Does he speak the same to kids, adults, or objects?

Remind us of our asymmetries. Who is that again? And what
smile to let the darkness in? I see him speak to the man
in blue work clothes and the way his face yields to
the light. To the way moments like this explode.

14. Does he use language inappropriately? (Wrong words or phrases).

The world is a network of minds. Think
of the tongue and the fibers that make
its muscles. The branching capillary network
enmeshed. Alive and cooled with a song
that slides away. Tongue jammed in its stirrup
thinking of itself and the blood red
amanitas pushed out of the earth.

Copyright © 2019 by Oliver de la Paz. This poem appeared in The Boy in the Labyrinth (University of Akron Press, 2019). Used with permission of the author.