Monday, April 11, 2016

Asking the right questions

Asking the right questions

It is 9AM.  A mother, interpreter, and an
impossibly small boy follow me to my office.

Did you have any trouble getting here? I ask.
The mother tells me they took three buses because nobody will help her boy.

He is always sick.  He is not talking.
She heard I would help him, so she came.

I tell her I can help his listening, and his learning, and his talking.
I can help with his hitting, and throwing, and running away from her.

She talks rapidly with the interpreter who holds up a manicured finger,
giving me a silencing glance. I wait.

The interpreter clears her throat:
"She's wondering if you can improve her son's immigration status."

I glance at the clock.  It is 9:15.

The boy with long eyelashes sits on the chair and taps the window.
Tap tap tap.  Tap tap tap.  He laughs.

Does he ever do anything that hurts himself?
"He hits his head on the floor sometimes," his mother says.

"But I don't worry.
My best friend told me not to worry if he hits his head.

His head is soft so he can't do any real damage yet."
There is a pause and she says, softly,

"Sometimes I worry because he's almost 4 and
that's when their heads turn hard."

We who do this work talk in short-hand questions to one another -
Making it?  Ready?  Okay?  Need help?

I hear my colleague on the phone:
"But do you have enough food to get through the weekend?"

Later, I poke my head in.
You eat?

It's 11:30.
"My creative writing teacher is the best teacher ever.

I think she's the best person I've ever met."
What makes her the best person you've ever met?

"She likes my writing.
 Like, she really actually likes it because she thinks it's good.

She isn't just saying it's good because I have autism.
That's not very usual."

It's 1:30pm and my office has so many people in it
we are all sweating.

Mom sorts through a plastic grocery bag of records, receipts
prescriptions, Mountain Dew, and cheese curls.

She hands me an MRI report, an IEP, and an inhaler as the baby in the stroller screams.
"This one," she says, rolling her eyes.  "He'll come see you next."

I explain the paperwork, hand Mom a pen and she grabs it with her whole fist.
There is fear in her eyes.

Would you like me to read it to you?

I point to the line where it says signature.
She carefully prints each letter.

How does she tell you what she wants or needs?
"Well, she's starting to talk,

but she only knows English words.
No Arabic words. 

So she's finally talking but
I still don't know what she wants.

She's only in Kindergarten
but I can't help her with her homework.

I told her teacher I was trying to help
but she just stopped sending the homework home."

It's 5:30.
I close the door and stare out the window at the playground, watching

the flow of children running, falling,
climbing, crying as

the steady line of people trudge across the muddy spring grass to the rest of their lives
I didn't even know to ask about

big hands holding tight the small ones
mouths forming words not meant for me.

Unanswered questions like prayers burn upon my lips as
I pack my bag and walk through the eerily quiet lobby.

"Dr. L," says the security guard with a nod.
"We'll see you tomorrow?"

Yes sir, I say.
Bright and early.

"A'ight then," he says, seriously.
"We're counting on it.  You hear?"

Sunday, April 3, 2016

And a bird flies out

And a Bird Flies Out

you are walking.
The air is chill, and damp, and moving, breathily around you like
The world is halfway between winter's raspiness and
summer's lush and supple body --
spring filters slowly into the empty places
with hints of green,
white flowers,
tiny buds on high up branches.
You hear a rustling in the brush, crinkling
dry leaves winter left like
smoldering ashes amidst the fragile, new life.
the rustling grows louder and you wonder
what life has touched down here
and why it stayed so long in this
forsaken place -
or if it left -
but returned, here, again
where the harshness reigns, still.
You look for reasons to return and find
hints of tenderness in
the faces of snowdrops.
Peeks of friendship in tiny daffodils.
Mentions of forgiveness in the green that grows
like it doesn't know it was not supposed to, when
the crackling and whispers turn to
an eruption of motion as
springing from her imprisonment of branches
a bird flies out

you are walking.
The air is chill, and damp, and moving creakily around you like
your mind aches with the weight of
thoughts resting heavily in your skull.
Your heart is gray
with the dark and heavy truths of your days
as you wait
in anticipation of how you will unfold from your long
and heavy winter.
there is a field of flowers.
Here, in this gray, forsaken place
blooming! -- this
is springtime --
improbable, I know,
but imagine:
each thought, a beautiful
and simple flower, like:
you are forgiven, like
take my hand, like
you are beautiful, like
all of you is worthy, like
let me stand with you, like
a wind has come
and blown away the crackling leaves.

you are walking.
The air is chill, and damp, and moving softly around you
and you feel
a stirring, starting gently in your chest.
You move your heart
to the returning sun and
a bird flies out.

My tattoo.  Apparently, inking something on your body
gives you a life theme.  My theme since the summer has become
"taking flight."  I'm digging it.