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When the guy sitting next to me
realizes the stewardess gave him
the last pack of CHEEZ-ITS, he takes
his head-set off, offers me a few.
He was listening to Yo La Tengo
and I was in the middle of Dylan’s
Series of Dreams. He saw Bob
with his parents when he was ten
and didn’t know anything about
his music. I moved my hands like
Father Cunningham in the confessional,
forgave him. Visiting college friends
in Burlington, he’s hoping for snow,
some skiing. I’m spending the weekend
with Jesse, my sort of step son. When
I get to the severely autistic part,
he doesn’t bend his head to the side,
wince in a combination of pain and pity
like some people do. He nods his head
and his eyes widen as this beatific smile
glistens across his face, as if he’s come
across his first living, breathing saint.
I could tell him how good it feels
when Jesse opens the door, smiles,
and skips as if he would have died
if I knocked later than three thirty,
how everything is clear, completely
understood throughout our visit,
what and when we’ll do things
written down like a map to treasure.
We ride the bus to Starbucks, dine
at the same restaurant. Delighted
by cars driving alongside, the sights
we pass, people getting off and on,
he hums two word phrases, pops out
a burst of laughter now and again.
He orders apple juice with ice, chicken
fingers, French fries, extra hot.
He makes a wounded bird sound
if we have to sit at the bar, wait
for a table, or the waitress brings
his apple juice a bit too slowly
and he’ll always send his food back
if he needs it more hot please now.
For three days, two nights, it’s easy,
simple really, to leave myself behind,
the nonsense that usually bends
my thoughts with worry, doubt.
If Jesse was sitting next to me
instead of this philosophy professor
from Rutgers I could ask Jesse for a few
more CHEEZ-ITS and he’d tell me
the truth, answer no, or one more,
that’s it. I wouldn’t wonder if only
a greedy bastard like me would grab
the last one. I tell Phillip no thanks,
wave it off, when he extends the bag
my way and I decide not to say
anything else about me and Jesse.
I won’t challenge the image of autism
tattooed into his brain and like everyone
who has nothing to do with it, he’ll never
understand it. But really, nobody does
anyway. Besides, I don’t mind being
his idea of a good person for the rest
of the flight. Three days, two nights,
one weekend a month, it’s a blessing
to know I can help make someone
I love so easily happy. Too busy,
too focused to question why that
never happens with anyone else.
Copyright 2022 Tony Gloeggler. First published in Crab Creek Review.
Tony Gloeggler, a life-long resident of New York City, has managed group homes for the mentally challenged for over 35 years. His poetry collections include What Kind Of Man (NYQ Books, 2020).
Wonderful work w/ lots of heart. Keep em coming
LikeLiked by 1 person
What a gift, both to experience this ‘autistic joy’ and to express it so eloquently, thank you.
Great scenario depicted and those cheese its or cruchy biscuits are just amzinggg 😊😊
Love the poem!
Thankyou Tony and Michael.
Yes, I love the compassion of Tony’s poems.
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