The Forgotten Art of Flapping Hands

 
Image: Val Dunham

Image: Val Dunham

Shortly after our son was diagnosed with autism, we threw ourselves into hours and hours of therapy. Some days that therapy seemed little more than a reminder of all the things he shouldn't be, and others it felt like a gift from on high, the only thing that might one day grant our son some form of bodily autonomy. His occupational therapist once told me "he won't always be four, and one day he might wish he could control his hands." She is right. Some days, though, his spinning looks like music and his flapping hands like a poem. On one such night, as the sun was setting by the sea, I took this picture and said a silent prayer of thanks for autism.

The Forgotten Art of Flapping Hands

Come morning I'll remember that you won't always be four.
I'll nod and wink to the boy you'll be at sixteen,
and struggle to make your beautiful, fluttering hands
still
like everybody else's.

Tomorrow, over coffee, I'll admit you are a bird
among a flock of flightless things
and I will strain against your wings until they're
still
and inanimate
like everybody else's.

But tonight, my starling boy, you are free--
untied to graze the red drenched sky,
a wobbling song I watch like a kite flyer,
bulky and flightless on the ground.

When my coffee grows cold and
your body still trembles I'll see sense,
but tonight, watching your silhouette
fold a shadowed kiss around a wanting sun I think
"Dear God, he is a poem
we are reading like a script."