AUTISM: A POEM
. . . . . XV. Seeking Inklings in an Old Video
He held mussel shells—indigo blue inside and black
. . . . . on back—or those round pebbles he had
found rolling like dark marbles in the tidewater
. . . . . wash, as if he had a handful of hard candy.
The wind’s speed picked up, the sea shining behind
. . . . . him, each wave displayed like a crinkled
sheet of tinfoil unfurled under that day’s final
. . . . . splay of sunlight. Every one of our son’s
uneasy steps at the ocean’s edge left an impression,
. . . . . still refilling with water—even as I witness
it now, in midwinter three years later. We could
. . . . . not have known then to watch for the few
symptoms we would soon learn to view with fear.
. . . . . Even those little hints we missed, a lack
of balance whenever he would lean to lift another
. . . . . stick of driftwood, as if the shoreline’s
slant had suddenly become too steep, or the tipped
. . . . . head and sideways glance he’d give us,
though we thought he only wanted reassurance,
. . . . . were never seen as dubious sorts of acts
that ought to indicate a reason to have misgivings.
. . . . . But to the two of us, now so suspicious,
feeling guilt, every unsure move that camera caught
. . . . . appears to be uninvestigated evidence left
behind, even in this scene when the tape runs to its end.
. . . . . He sits on the sand, back toward the shore,
counting out his collection of shells in a single file,
. . . . . as if pretending every one of them were part
of some private treasure, the way anyone might
. . . . . arrange family keepsakes, jewels or gems
kept as heirlooms somewhere in a darkened drawer,
. . . . . brought out for comfort in a time of grief.