An Autistic's Collection of How to Be Human
The first one was a gesture, picked up off the sidewalk. It had been glistening, a hi. It said, read me, eat me, grow. It said this is how you say please, and then as in Austen, this is love. This is the apple and this is the tree, what they mean by Adam and Eve, later’s birds and bees. What they mean with a smile, the one that gets caught in the corner, the one that runs away, sideways, the one that cracks across their face like a slap. Don’t close your eyes if you want to be loved. Hold your tone like a seesaw, and be both sides in balance. This is a conversation, and here is body language. Here is where the hands whisper to you, where the way they shake say danger on the wrong side of a thought. Pick them, one by one, from blaring screens and the mumbled afterthoughts of those who depart from you. Crash into them with the frowns you’ll get. Grow them in isolation, pace from one side of the room to the next, until you know the words they’ll want you to say. Gather what they want from you, in a room, on a face, like a bouquet. These are my expressions, my accents, my changes. My head inclined as something I found in my pocket, my hands still as a licked envelope. My legs precisely together, precisely apart. Collected. This is my collection of how to be human, unspooling around me as it gathers threads, a loud ocean of objects I tied to myself. Like a hurricane runs on land and asks to be loved. Like a tornado touches ground with the hope of finding rest. Like any answers matter, when you know they’ll know the moment they see you looking down. What it means to be a collector. What it means to gather conversation into a bowl, bring it to your mouth, and drink it. Eat, grow. Like a tree with picked leaves in the garden of everything that could have been. A migration bird on a branch, wrong seasoned. The fruit on the floor, waiting to be fertile ground again, where everyone is equal in their knowing. To notice that others do not carry this guide around. That what I watered myself you got in the fridge. That what I tore from myself you found on your table. The love I wanted to give, buried beneath everything you could want from me.
DMT is a self-taught multidisciplinary artist, born in Pretoria, South Africa. They have been selected for exhibitions (F-Stop Magazine, Float Photo Magazine, Praxis Gallery), and been published in print and online (Unvael, Pearl Press, among others). They write from an autistic and non-binary perspective.
Did you steal the Atlantic in your porcelain vase? Did you eat all the pages of next year’s calendar? Child, man, shadow, poison of my berry bush, you leave my dreams swinging like broken doors. It was dark one morning, magnolias in bloom, when I woke to you standing over the corpse of a whale: its belly cut open, its organs red satin; no blade in sight, but the sickle of your smile. Reaching into the viscera, you retrieved a pocket watch, which you cleaned with your sleeve and placed in my left palm. It was white gold, the glass immaculate, like my grandmother’s watch I had lost in my youth. I read the time and snapped the lid shut. I gave it back: it ran eight hours too slow.
Allison Lee is a law student at the University of Houston. Besides reading, she enjoys hiking and listening to seventies music. Her work has been published in HCE Review.
Art History Lectures from the Radiologist
On your wall, held in a luminous frame, the halo of my ribs crowns the grey globs of my organs. You hit a button, flip through my file like slides in a survey class. A black and white impression of my knees, edges softened from arthritis. Bright contrasts pop in the modern MRI of my spine. An example of an artist whose best work has passed, the forms and expression lack solidity. The contemporary CAT scans, ultrasounds of my breasts in bright blue and red. As the ultimate critic, in your hands, my life, my career. I hope for a glowing report about my unusual composition, juxtaposition of elements, isolation of negative spaces. Though, one bad review and my creativity will be consigned to the rubbish bin, another discarded artist displayed only in cheap hotels and doctor’s office walls.
Christa Fairbrother, MA, is a Florida-based writer living with chronic illnesses. She’s the author of the award-winning, Water Yoga (Singing Dragon, 2022). Her poetry has appeared in Of Poets and Poetry, The London Reader, and Young Ravens Literary Review. Find her at www.christafairbrotherwrites.com.
I Wander Upon a Late-Night Photo Shoot
Large China balls glide through sky glowing so bright that night turns to day. Their luminescent skin spills over the path, whitewashing pools beyond the reservoir's fence. I cross its borders to feel noon at midnight, cold against flesh. It’s the artist who directs the gaze and brings to focus the awe-ness of an ordinary thing—a pipe nestled between two lips, legs stretched between the bars of a fire escape, a first snowfall blanketing the sidewalk like a stoop-sale quilt. Photography records light, not people. It’s always in the past, what the Chinese call the art of regret. This momentariness an anecdote to the fear of disappearing, an act of marking yourself present.
Andrew Mauzey is an Assistant Professor at Biola University in Southern California where he serves as the Associated Director of the English Writing Program. He received his MFA from Chapman University and has published in The Poetry Foundation, TreeHouse Arts, Pioneertown, Ekstasis, and more.
We waited at a dirty glass-and-chrome concession window for an eternity to place an order of chicken fingers and a chocolate-and-vanilla swirl ice cream cone. The woman who finally pulled on the window handle hard enough to open it stood there, leaning in, resting on her elbows as if it had been a difficult day. What’ll it be? We’re out of almost everything. “Then why are you open?” She shrugged and told us we owed her $1.43, no matter what we ordered, or didn’t order. “What’s that for? Tax?” I don’t really know. I don’t make up the rules. We heard music coming from a space behind her. “Where’s the music coming from?” There’s a really cool bar in there. “We’ll go in and take a look.” That’ll be another two dollars each. We ignored her, walking into the building through a big light-blue steel door with a rusted handle and graffiti all over its surface. Every table was taken. Most had either one or two persons. We approached a large bearded man with dirty overalls and a pipe. We started to ask him if we could sit at his table when he got up and walked away. There was a small crowded stage with a band playing astro-tech. I ordered a Twisted Monkey and a Pear Martini for Beth. We toasted each other, took our first sip and were magically transported to the California coast. We were stuffed into a tour bus. The wind was blowing hard, whipping dry palm fronds like crepe paper. I saw colorful row houses and the Golden Gate in the background. The bus pulled up on the side of a multi-block Mexican market where everyone got out to search for souvenirs and food like lemon preserves and chocolate-covered tarantulas. Robyn Boullion donned a sunhat and a light tangerine-colored sash. How does this look? she asked her girlfriend. In a flash Beth disappeared and I was left alone, looking for the bus. I called Robyn on my cell phone. “Where are you?” You missed the bus. You’ll have to get a ride to the train station on your own. The driver said the train will not wait for anyone. And JD, it’s supposed to snow.
John Dorroh's poetry can be found in over 100 journals, including Feral, Pinyon, El Portal, and Loch Raven Review. Two of his poems were nominated for Best of the Net. He had two chapbooks published in 2022.