Home > Imprisonment > A Theology of an Autistic Body

A Theology of an Autistic Body

July 13, 2011

by Nicole Nicholson


The florescent sun overhead threatens
to take your eyes for spoils; solar flares work their way up past
the bone cloister wall behind the skin of your forehead
and into the abbey, where they scorch everything in sight. Pull the shades,
offer prayers. Walk a little bit faster. Grab
what’s on the shopping list and get the hell out of there:
all the while, you compose your litanies out of
your own fast-forwarding footsteps.


You curse Eve for her predilection
for believing a smooth character with a forked tongue
and a good pickup line: the clothing canopies next to your skin,
woven and torture-made, hold in the sweaty rain inside. There is
no rising above the clouds to relieve your saturated self
and your baked, burning soul. Above the
nerve-and-sweat thunderstorm, the acrylic, wool, or polyester needles
dig in to stitch a worsted version of you,
doing their best imitation of St. Rose of Lima’s glass, thorn, and stone bed:
and you are begging for the relief of a hairshirt. You wonder
if prescriptions for penance were pre-written into your RORA gene before
you broke forth into this skin and this life.


You have only one wall around your perimeter,
and it is made out of silent and thick concrete block
now worn to a haggard and bleary-eyed gray. You weren’t built
with glass walls, wooden walls, dry wall, or even beautiful brick walls
of burnt umber, carnelian, and auburn; it’s either concrete or nothing.
On the days where the walls break down, everything gets through
and your territory is invaded by armies of
other people’s sad, nervous, and angry. You become the soldiers
flooding your skin, your stripped open telegraph wire nerves.
Confusion. Jumble. Sanctity violated. The anchorites in your cells
flee away, screaming in protest.


It is up to you to spread your Gospel.
You’ve been writing it since you were three. Or maybe eight.
Or maybe twelve. But no matter: the theologians
put quill to parchment and began taking dictation
from the Throne Room behind your eyes, and then passed the materials
on to the monks, who then crafted illuminated manuscripts made from
vellum, ochre, and cinnabar; lampblack and azurite;
gold and silver leaf.
All the materials, handmade out of you. You crafted them
from the pictures, encyclopedia pages, equations, and musical notes
you smuggled into the hermetic grottos inside your skull.

You, the obsessed prophet,
with a computer mind and a glass-shatter heart,
dedicate yourself to passing out copies of your Gospel,
trying to show friends, family, and passing strangers
how the curve and angle of their gilded letters catch the light just so. Some
take the manuscripts with eyes and fingers of awe and wonder;
some toss them into the bloated watery gutters by their feet;
and some turn your offerings away; but no matter. You,
the emerging cloistered from the Holy Order of Autism,
transcribed that Gospel in your enviable single focus.
You keep passing out the manuscripts,
letting each curve, each angle, each illustration, and each glint of gold
be revealed, delicate and brilliant,
in the light of each newborn sun
and of the eyes of your fellow disciples.

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Nicole Nicholson was called to poetry as a teenager and has never left since. In addition to winning a 2010 Naturally Autistic People Award, her work has been featured in MediaVirus Magazine, Poets for Living Waters and Awe in Autism. She regularly blogs her poems at Raven’s Wing Poetry and is also a contributor to We Write Poems. Nicole currently lives in Columbus, Ohio with her fiancé.

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  1. July 13, 2011 at 4:45 pm

    Damn fine poem.

  2. Ann
    July 13, 2011 at 6:13 pm

    I love this poem, Dave–but please, correct the typo in the title! That first “s” doesn’t belong.

    • July 13, 2011 at 7:40 pm

      Oh crap! Corrected, thanks.

  3. August 2, 2011 at 10:11 am

    Wonderful poem. Keep spreading the gospel. People need to hear it. And thank you for your comments on my poem as well.

  1. July 14, 2011 at 9:45 am
  2. July 14, 2011 at 10:09 am
  3. July 20, 2011 at 6:18 pm
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