“Awww, he’s so sweet. I bet you use him to get chicks.”

“Awww, he’s so sweet.
I bet you use him to get chicks,”
Is what I’ve been told by women
All my life, but

When I was 15, I was in love.
Petite, brunette, short, a self-appointed southern belle,
And because she said was religious,
We couldn’t fuck.

I wanted her so badly it drove me insane,
Beating love out of myself every night.

Middle of the day in the summer, I snuck her over to my house.
My mother was at work, and I was hoping to get laid. Finally.

I ran to my room, stripping my clothes in anticipation.
I was an idiot.
She went to the bathroom in the hallway.
She called to me, her voice scared and frail.

When I got to the hall, my brother’s head was next to hers.

He was sniffing her hair and face.
It was his new quirk.
I could hear his labored breathing
As he ran his nose up and down her face.
Lavender with a hint of honey,
The perfume I loved.

I grabbed him by his shirt
And slammed him into the wall,
Knocking down a family photo.
She didn’t run away, but god I wish she had.

I hit him. I hit him again. And again.
I hit him until it was no longer about her.
It was about the divorce,
The parents that couldn’t be in the same house–
I hit my autistic brother until he cried out
In actual goddamed words, for once:
“Stop hitting me, Brock!”
Because I wasn’t Brock,
I hit him again.

Taking the lavender scent with her,
She left quickly. Never to return to my home.

I was alone, in the damp apartment with my brother.
With nothing but the sound of air-conditioning
Droning in the background,
Failing against the Memphis humidity and sweltering heat.
I’ll end up there forever one day, with him alone
With a child who can’t tell the difference
Between smelling
Or making love.
And I never can forget it.


Anabelle, My Imaginary Daughter

Because autism doesn’t affect your face,
Anabelle is heartbreakingly beautiful at seventeen.
She has my great grey-green eyes
and the long dark hair and pale skin of her mother
who left us.
Everyone tells me,
“She’s so shockingly beautiful. It’s a shame she came out like that.”

She wears poofy frilly dresses,
smothered in scarlet flowers.
The older she gets, the more
they make her look like a porcelain doll.
And people ask me,
“Why do you make her wear that, it’s so odd?”
I can’t say: poor autistic Anabelle is afraid of pants,
even though I wear them every day,
or that thick fabrics feel icky and heavy on her skin
so that it’s either this or nothing at all,
and what would you say about it then?

Every birthday with Anabelle is the same.
People from her special needs class,
with wheel chairs or cleft palates,
cerebral palsy and Down syndrome,
are invited, and they all come,
because Anabelle is the hit of the class, and the teachers
tell me that it’s because of how kind she is.
They say nothing about how she’s so pretty
Or how when she enters the room, all the boys
applaud and holler like frat boys.
And that I’m appalled at the testosterone of my fellow men.
The cake is angel food with no icing,
because even that is heavy in her mouth,
and the only drinks are carbonated,
a light tide on her tongue as they tingle and fizz.
We parents feel it in our hearts as the party winds down.
We watch joy and passion pass,
between people who can’t possibly understand
the ephemerality of it all.

At the end of the party, we go to the home
where Anabelle, one day, is going to live.
An immense brick building with blue green blinds.
She plays with Uncle Josh, and I make sure
he doesn’t get too close.
In some imaginings, Anabelle’s mother is Josh’s nurse,
and she ignores us.
In others, the nurse is male and hits on my daughter,
complimenting her dress,
And telling me he’d like to buy her one.

I love my daughter, so she never will exist.

I’ll never have to watch her mother
walk out defiantly with her head held high,
blaming me for the autism,
like my father did before her.

I’ll never have to look at her
Woodcock-Johnson test scores
and them all be 0.1 like her uncle.
Meaning that my daughter will never
be above the age of three.

I’ll never have to watch her say,
as her dark hair catches the moonlight
and her nose crumples in annoyance,
“Say bye, Uncle Josh!”
in a high-pitched, eerie echo.