My daughter wears my DNA like a casualty,
drifts through conversations with melodic logic.
When she speaks in the language of my ancestors
I know she’s caught something with her mind –
a dinosaur or the swamp root of a poem.
Her centre is her own.
Sometimes she huddles on the beach like driftwood,
golden gaps of sunshine in her silhouette
as if her body has bullet holes
and I can see the brightness of her soul.
Blue-skinned, she seems, breathing slow and low,
drawing narwhals in the air or covering her ears.
She tells me in a voice of dusk pebbles,
Mom, you are a maiasaura. A good mother lizard.
We schedule a hug.
Her shadow catches in my throat.
She grows deep, a creature of thrum and ashes,
knows she is different from others.
When she’s clumsy she giggles, like any kid,
but the clay of her mind can be bloodish,
a nerve ball tender to touch,
a constantly knitted refrain.
The school day comes violently, spinning too bright,
the forcing of norms does not fit the build of her mind.
She closes her eyes and rocks, tick tock, to find a kind face,
a good space. Returns home bent with hurt.
In the evening she wraps herself tight
in an old breeze, wanders
the playground to feast on leftover laughter,
blown kisses fallen to the ground.
In the half-light she looks grey,
an abandoned painting.
I find her shivering under a tree
her courage discarded on a rock.
I drink her tears,
wrap her under my skin.
Life after life, she sobs. Too much.
I nod and we walk away.
But my daughter can hear the sun.
We dance to the sound of unfurling leaves
sing to the shift of birch skin.
Her soul lives in the blood of rivers
moans through the forest.
She hears everything.
Alone, we bathe in the suds of the sun
watch the orange dawn of a butterfly,
speak of mammals and robin song
and why the Congo changed its name.
For on the days she can inhabit
the wholeness of her verse
she soars melodic over earth
dancing with the universe.
I don’t label myself an autism warrior.
That gives me credit.
I carry guilt made of covert creatures,
wet wings stuck to their bodies.
At dawn I let them out,
they unfurl their wings and flee.
At night they return, watch me,
cold planets in my throat.
But I will sing to my daughter as long as I live:
You don’t have to smile for me
You can rock your body to peace
You don’t have to leave to cry
You can flap your hands when you need
You don’t need to say hi
to do anything
You are the world where I live.
Originally published by the League of Canadian Poets in “Fresh Voices”.