The Story Nabakov Wrote about my Autistic Son

after “Signs and Symbols”

The birds with human feet
and the ones in the bath.
How one is always floating.
The patches of skin where the acne appears.
The art of being perceived as deranged.
Obsessions like trains
and deciphering clouds,
ripples counted in pools of water.
Language distorted into nothing,
the incoherence of patterns and pictures,
the fear of public restrooms
and the special school.
The phobias that become a dense tangle
of logically interacting illusions.
The mothers who accept the loss of joy
and the fathers who don’t.
The recurrent waves of pain.
How the vulnerable meet their fate,
are crushed or contained by the world.
A child humming to himself in a corner.
The beautiful weeds that can’t hide from the farmer.

At the Center for Autism Research

The doctor draws a series of complex diagrams.
Behind me, the bird is swinging wildly in its cage.

In the first of three graphs, tin is a color,
mercury a sunset, aluminum a stick-figure drawing
of a girl holding a small boy’s hand.
I realize that the methylation chain is filled with sorrows.
The doctor speaks methodically
as she traces a circular path with her finger.
I repeat the names of the essential aminos,
attempting to commit all ten to memory.

I purchase three bottles before leaving the office.
I tell the receptionist that I know what it means
to heal wounds and repair tissue,
that I know where to find a cool, dry place to store them.

Tomorrow, I will snap open the capsules,
stir vigorously,
force you to swallow.
You will hate me with your eyes
as you gasp for breath.

I will swallow handfuls when my heart grows weak,
when there’s no more energy for diagrams or theories,
when all the good bacteria have died like bees.

Anti-Chlorinated Feminism

The gospel of the journey is realizing
that eating is a political act,
that the Woodstock of the mind
is everywhere on a tiny planet like ours,

that the inventory of the body
is equivalent to the trauma
that comes from crop-dust in our eyes,
carcinogens in the crotches of our panties,
black women doing the math
that put white men on the moon.

And there are always
more questions for consideration—
like admitting that it’s hard to tell who’s shooting
while we’re praying with our eyes closed.

Civil War

The dead bird is a kind of song.

I think about the end of Lorca, the act of loyalty,
the incidental things.

And I wonder what we’ve really discovered,
what anyone truly knows before their exile.

Maybe just this: that both sides of a double-sided coin
can be wrong.
That anything moral is a dilemma.

According to Spanish legend, the king of crickets
steals the voices of boys,
leaving them mute.

According to you, this is why you’re here:
for the truce-making.
And for the words.