Pushcart XL: Scott Morgan, “The Autistic Son” (poetry) from Tar River, #53.2


He drew his name in black Sharpie, blocky
angular letters. On everything, his name.
He built Lego monsters in the doctor’s office,
swarmed his fingers over them like larvae
While we discussed therapies. Once in a while
he would look up at us, the doctor would write
That down, he would go back to his creation
and sometimes speak for it, a low monotone
Growl creasing his lips. The doctor wrote that down too….

We begin and end with his name, in black Sharpie, blocky, angular letters. In between, in the space of 40 or so lines, we see the struggles, the limits, the blood, the medications, the legalities. All encased between his name. Whatever else he may have or lack, he has a name, and in a poem that could become an overview of disability, we instead have a person.

The open couplets: why that form? The intense interrelation between parents and child? Why the closed first couplet? The child, always alone? The final line is singular: at some point this child will continue without his parents. That more than anything, from what I’ve heard from parents of children with any kind of permanent impairment, is most terrifying of all, not the violence, or the expense, or the stress, or the constant watchfulness, but the knowledge that some day, this child will be at the mercy of others who are not his parents. Maybe that’s the secret of the couplets, the relentless tick-tock.

It isn’t just the child who’s distant; the tone of the speaker is distant as well. The knife wound is related in the same tone as the Lego monsters or the doctor visit or the imagined courtroom process. I wonder when the parents cry, get angry, laugh. But I keep coming back to his name, beginning and end. A boundary of a spectrum: a name we are not privileged to know.


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