What Autistic Advocacy Really Means

I’m veering from the beaten path of poetry today to share Ira’s phenomenally informative and vital post about autism advocacy.

Autistic Science Person

TW – ableism, eugenics, “treatments”, torture, Judge Rotenberg Center, Spectrum 10K

You may have recently heard about the Spectrum 10K study and have seen autistic people’s, and non-autistic people’s, concerns about the study.Though I have plenty to say regarding this study, that’s not what I want to talk about right now.

What I want to talk about is the lasting effects that occur when autistic people are used as a commodity, a political football, a theoretical argument, as exploitation, when autistic people have to witness the dehumanization and legal torture of autistic people.

A study like Spectrum 10K brings out non-autistic people – parents of autistic people, teachers of autistic students, and many disability-adjacent “professionals” – who genuinely think it would be better if they aborted autistic fetuses in the future so that they didn’t “suffer.”

Although these interactions are upsetting, the worst part is when being autistic is used…

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Two Poems up at Cathexis Northwest Press

citizen-tree

My poems, “Missive (to the White Oak’s Depths)” and “Elegy for My Former Self,” are live in the July 2021 issue of Cathexis Northwest Press. Heartfelt thanks to editor C. M. Tollefson for selecting these pieces. 

Please also enjoy the audio renditions of these poems, courtesy of—your favorite poet and mine—the one and only Robert Okaji!

Elegy for My Former Self.jpg!d

Hope Springs Eternal & So Does Willie Nelson

Image

Hope Springs Eternal & So Does Willie Nelson

Posted in honor of his 88th birthday!

Another death hoax? Gee, how original…
You folks ain’t fickle—guess I’ll give ya points
fer grit if not fer gumption. I’ve rolled joints
my friends, far stiffer than my tricky ankle,
imbibed red wine that’s older than yer gran’;
this here bandana holds more DNA
than most small countries on a holiday,
so keep your Internet! Just leave the bedpan
close, gas up the bus, & brace for twenty
more long years—well, give or take a decade.
The road’s a callin’, songs are in my head,
& my ol’ guitar plays as good as any;
there’s plenty weed to smoke & hair to braid:
So’s far as I can tell, I’m still not dead.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

Of These and All

In celebration of World Poetry Day, I offer the following “syntactic echo” of the ineffably ingenious innovator of American Poetry, Walt Whitman. This poetic exercise was the brainchild of one Alessandra Lynch (i.e., I’m not entirely to blame…), instructor/facilitator of my spring 2021 Poetry Workshop in the Butler University MFA Program. 

Of These and All

  “And of these one and all I weave the song of myself”     ~ Walt Whitman, Song of myself 15

The left flesh-melon harbors a pool of sweat, the right flesh-melon harbors a
             pool of sweat,
The perimenopausal woman hot-flashes in the kitchen, the bemused son dons 
            wool slippers in the kitchen,
The second husband purchases electric socks for his perimenopausal wife and

             the ex-husband dissociates further from his ex-wife;
And these stoke my hankerings for donuts, and I make do with home-baked
             banana-nut muffins, 
And such as it is to amass five decades of knowledge, minus where I last left my phone,
             more or less I am in fact speaking on it,
And of these hot flashes, cantankerous joints, suddenly-uncloseable pants and all I 
             justify the lament of my middle-age…

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

 

Letter to My Love, Flouting Miles

 

 interminable slumber

Letter to My Love, Flouting Miles

Dear Bob: Though the maps may superimpose
their abject separateness upon the thousands of miles
between us with traditional lettered-&-numbered-grids;
& though your birth into this timeline sixty years ago
graced the cosmos just shy of twelve earth-years
(also known as a full cycle of the Chinese zodiac)
before mine, I dare say that you & I are timeless—
certainly no less so than those archaic dragons
whose subterranean nests we are to extrapolate
from the fumaroles erupting at the maps' folds.

Of course, such implications of fierceness
can seem forbidding…
But for all the scaly terror of their talons
& spiky tails quaintly curled around caches
of sapphires, emeralds & gold medallions,
what those beasts are best known for
is interminable slumber, whereas we are wide awake—
besides, however notoriously considerable
our sundry existential concerns tend to be,
no one would fault us dogs for not knowing
our way home!
 
Long before I even knew I knew you,
something in me knew you were my One,
which is how I know I will find my way to your arms,
where I will remain yours forever, Stephanie.
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Slippery Elm Literary Journal

Thanks for spreading the word, Bob! Slippery Elm LJ is truly top-notch!

O at the Edges

Slippery Elm Literary Journal’s 2019 issue is now live in the Slippery Elm online archives. My poem “This Oak” appeared in the print issue. If you have a chance, take a look at SELJ‘s offerings and/or consider submitting a few poems or entering the 2021 Slippery Elm Prize competition, now open for submissions. Many thanks to the journal’s editorial team, and especially EIC Dave Essinger, whose professionalism and personal kindness place SELJ at the top of the ladder in the world of literary journals.

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Though it is Written

Though it is Written 

that grace comes only by the way
of a primordial breath,
you know it to be no less
manifest for its taking of alternate routes,
as surely it finds you by the grasping-
of-an-implement way;

by the miraculous-
proximity-of-your-notebook-
with-Munch’s-iconic-Scream-
embossed-in-gold-on-the-cover-
to-your-waiting-for-this-morning’s-
nine-grained-slice-to-toast way;

as well as the letting-
your-hand-part-the-pages-
with-a-wake-of-coffee-stains-
because-you-opt-today-
to-imbibe-your-reflux-inducing-libation-
over-not-doing-so’s-throbbing-promise-
of-a-4:00-pm-migraine way;

not to mention the way
you habitually open
the blinds to another barely-lit dawn,
that grants you a glimpse of a Northern Flicker
scrabbling for purchase on the finch feeder
in a flapping blaze of belly, feathers,
& beaked seeds flung in ceremonious
presumption of some nearby female’s interest;

or the way you finally steal a breath—

which you need to steal
before your face re-stones itself
in the memory of those children
who were murdered
in yesterday’s mass shooting
in a Texas church,

for how else can you still hope?—

which delivers you to the way
your twelve-year-old Red Heeler
recruits what measure of her
brown-eyed vigilance she can muster
to shepherd this whole
bed-headed-faux-cheetah-printed-
heartsick-kitchen-calamity of you
past the counter-top-mounds of clutter,
through the ice age shadow
of your perdition,

& back to your beginning

when you were god,

& you were the word with god,

& you were the way.

STEPHANIE L. HARPER

“Though it is Written” first appeared (in slightly different form) in The Winnow Magazine in November 2019. When I first wrote this piece, I couldn’t imagine a more agonizing circumstance than that which had brought about the particular tragedy weighing so heavily on me at the time. Then came the year 2020. Though I haven’t yet processed some of the things we’ve collectively experienced and emerged from (with varying degrees of scarring) enough to approach them poetically, what I do know is that the way I once devised for myself to keep finding hope still applies. 

Happy New Year 2021, my friends. I wish you all the ways that guide you in the year ahead to soul-sustaining beauty, light, and love.