The Ways My Nonverbal Son Communicates Without Words


He doesn’t speak the words.

He brings you your things from a drawer,
One by one.
He knows whose things belong to whom.
He leaves your shirt at the gate
Through which you will return to him,
When you go away.

My heart feels like a cloud before rain,
That is full of love, not sorrow,
Love for his sun-ray smile,
And his gapped-pearl teeth,
For his sing-song little words,
Golden hair, his
Shapes and numbers.
For his constant touch.

He is not what you think
When you see the word, the label –
And his mind is luminous and gorgeous,
Clever and unusual,
Sweet and funny,
More like a box of rainbow
Ribbons
Unravelled
Than a thread neatly spooled, just one color.

He doesn’t speak the words
— I love you —
(and he loves us with his kisses and snuggles,
because he is not what you think, no
checklist of deficiencies and lackings)
But he knows them when you speak them to him,
First thing in the morning,
Last thing at night. He said ma-ma once,
In the dark of a night of when he was only just one,
Little fingers stretched out to me, seeking my skin.
It’s taken nearly 18 months more
To begin to call me a word of his own,
Meeting me halfway there
Ma,
And I think of old Ma Kettle, with her brood of
Children and her dishevelled hair, and I smile,
Thanks, Boodi.

He doesn’t speak the words —
He pinches and kicks and rages right now,
Striking out when he can’t communicate any other way,
Because communicating is so hard for him,
My bouncing, flapping, spinning, laughing boy,
And I have to learn these new lessons
Of patience and composure,
For real now, not
The passive aggressive seething under a calm surface
Of old — I have to remember just how much
He needs me, and how hard the world is
For him to feel his way through.
I have to remember to control my impulse to yell back,
To instead reach out, and in,
To draw him out of the vortex
And hold his hand,
Quiet these wild hearts of ours
With safe places instead.

Some words he doesn’t need.

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This post originally appeared on “Sand Has No Home.”

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