Rebecca Foust won Poetry’s 2007 Emily Dickinson Award. Nominated for two 2008 Pushcart Prizes, Foust’s recent poetry appears or is forthcoming in Atlanta Review and the 2007 and 2008 Robert Phillips Poetry Chapbook Prizes and was a finalist for Los Angeles Review, Nimrod, North American Review, Spoon River Poetry Review and elsewhere.
When they look at my son like that
at the grocery store check out
or at school assemblies,
I wait for the right moment, till they move
through laughter, raised eyebrows, clamped lips
—but before fear. Then I switch gears,
go into my tap dance-and-shuffle routine.
Yes, he’s different, all kids are different, him
just a little bit more—oh, he’s knocked down
the applesauce pyramid? So sorry, here,
my sleeves conceal napkins for messes like this,
and I can make them disappear. But before I do,
make sure you marvel at how the jars
made an algorithm when he pulled that one free.
Oh, he was standing on his desk again, crowing
like a rooster in your third-period class?
Yes, bad manners, and worse luck
that he noticed how today’s date and the clock
matched the hour of what you taught
last week in a footnote—the exact pivotal
second of the Chinese Year of the Cock.
Before they get angry, I pull out my deck,
deal out what they want. Yes, he’s different,
but look at his IQ score, his Math SAT!
I’ve figured out that difference pays freight
when linked with intelligence; genius trumps odd,
alchemizes bizarre into merely eccentric.
So I play the dark card of the idiot savant,
trotting out parlor tricks in physics and math:
he sees solutions the way you might breathe!
Or perceive! The color green! It’s my ploy
to exorcise their pitchforks and torches,
to conjure Bill Gates when they see him,
or Einstein, not Kaczynski or Columbine;
perhaps they’ll think him delightfully odd
or oddly delightful, dark Anime eyes,
brow arc calligraphy on rice paper skin,
his question mark flowerstalk spine.
But it’s a swindle, a flimflam, a lie,
a not-celebration of what he sees
with his inward-turned eye:
the patterns in everything—traffic, dirt piles,
bare branches of trees, matrices in jar stacks,
Shang Dynasty history in tick of school clock,
music in color and math, the way shoppers
shuffle their feet while waiting on line;
how he tastes minute differences between brands—
even batches-within-brands—of pickles and cheese;
how he sees the moonlit vole
on the freeway’s blurred berm.
“Dark Card” first appeared in Margie, Vol. 6, Fall 2007, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in December 2007
The excitement in the difference between two pennies
increases exponentially when there are twenty,
a hundred; a thousand, and he vibrates with joy.
It can be tying flies under a microscope, knot patterns
the size of this period. It can be cataloging washing
machine brands or the note variations in a symphony,
or committing to memory for joyous recounting
the entire year’s schedule for the El-train.
Or picking up rocks from the road, distinguishing the ones
that were indigenous from the gravel trucked in;
beach detritus—what wealth lays strewn—infinite variety
of shell, pebble, seaweed and broken bits of broken bits
Oh, never to grow bored or experience a numbing
sameness of things! To immerse consciousness
in the sensory present of a bottle cap flattened by traffic,
or spend a whole school day with a paperclip stylus
carving whorls and curlicues in acorns, given
to the teacher instead of the worksheet—
each minute difference an opportunity point
on which another difference can hook
and turn and spread again; a thought diagram
of the branches that split and re-split,
blooming a pattern so rich
and complex it quickly becomes chaos to us—
and he’s never happier than when.
“Asperger Ecstasy” first appeared in The Atlanta Review, Vol. XIV, No.1 Fall/Winter 2007 and in the chapbook Dark Card (Texas Review Press, 2008)
Don’t go away from me like that,
eyes all dark and diffused,
to that dreamland of dew-soft fields
encircled by mist-mantled mountains
small superhero you with ham-size fists
stuck on those twig-size arms,
flying to a place where you’re strong,
not afraid of the open door to your closet,
or phantoms that fragment and drift
when you part the hanging clothes.
I can help with the monster in the closet;
please let me help
with the monster in the closet.
What do you see behind your wide-open
dream-blind eyes, what dumb-bully night-terror
yanks you awake, sweats you
and chatters your teeth? What demon grins
and writhes shut every grammar school door?
Who are the lovely ones that charm you to wood,
leave you dreaming alone on the rug
every recess? It’s hard to protect you
when you’re not here, it’s hard
to know what to do, whether to try to make true
what may not be awry — it is disability
or just the difference in intensity
that makes turquoise not quite blue?
“Unreachable Child” first appeared in the chapbook Dark Card (Texas Review Press, 2008)