The Book of Emergencies: The Poetry of Autism by Rosemarie Dombrowski

RD BofE front cover web-01

This poem wasn’t really inspired by what he said, but rather, what I didn’t say.

I met him at a reading that I organized. We went out for drinks that same night. Then he asked me out to dinner. We ate vegan burgers and fries. We went to the park. We watched the sunset from the swings. We sat in his car and talked about the movies we needed to rent, the places we needed to go – all the things you inadvertently rattle off when your pheromones are spraying invisible lust-juice into the air between your bodies.

I raced home to the sitter. I put my son to bed. I’d known all night that I was screwing myself by not telling him, by not mentioning my non-verbal, severely autistic son, who is the subject of an entire book of poems I’ve written, The Book of Emergencies (Five Oaks Press).

I never went out with him again. When I lie, I have to commit to the story, and this time, I knew I couldn’t, not if commitment meant denying my son’s existence.

I saw him in the grocery store a year later. He had 12 bananas in his basket. I wasn’t wearing a bra. We talked about New York and were mildly flirtatious. In the interim, he had become my colleague, and we often saw each other in the hall.

It’s been at least three years since we watched the sunset from the swings. We’re good acquaintances now, and he knows I have a son, but I wasn’t the one who told him.

That Time We Watched the Sunset on a Swing

You remind me of curry.
You buy more bananas than anyone
could eat in a week.
You talk about the florists of New York,
the speak-easys that sell poems and absinthe
behind curtains. I tell you that
art and debauchery should always be paired
with a heavier wine.
You tell me we should bike to the nearest cafe,
make some waves,
craft something that resembles a wild animal
out of high-end leather.

I find you in the sauce aisle on a Tuesday.
We talk about cheeses that are better
when grated. You reach out to touch me
because you want to know
the horizon of my torso.
It’s sort of like the sunset—the waiting,
the anticipating, the wanting to know
where one thing ends and the next begins.

I wonder if you remember the time
that we watched the sunset on a swing.
And the sand was working its way between my toes.
And the light was dipping behind the mountain.


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