The Art of Autism is saddened to hear of Jackson Wheeler’s passing. The Art of Autism honored Jackson Wheeler last year with a Hearts and Arts Award.
Jackson Wheeler was a great friend of people with disabilities. He was a social worker for thirty years for Tri-Counties Regional Center and developed the TIL Program Curriculum, an independent living curriculum, which in our opinion is the best curriculum out there. Keri Bowers and I (Debra Muzikar) know many people who have gone through the curriculum and are now living independently, including Brent Anderson who is pictured with Jackson above. The curriculum is still being used.
Jackson Wheeler was also a poet and a lover of the Arts. He wrote 3 books of poetry: ” Swimming Past Iceland,” “A Near Country” and his latest, “Was I Asleep.” Jackson wrote many poems about growing up in the Appalachians as well as the AIDS epidemic. He was also an art collector and supported our artists with developmental disabilities with acknowledgment and encouragement.
Here is one of his poems.
for Thong Pisey
By Jackson Wheeler
I have eaten the sticky rice
The spicy curry. My lips
Have been moistened by
Mr. Lee’s excellent plums
In coconut milk.
I have listened to the saffron-robed
Monks chant the 10,000 blessings
The prayers of farewell, the karmic directions.
I have plucked one leaf from the ground
Beneath the Bodhi tree and I have greeted
You in an honorable fashion – the divine spark
In me bowing to the Buddha spark within you.
I have greeted all the members of your family
Who rejoice in your long life – one journey has
Ended – for your next journey I leave incense and
Scented petals by your small, still hands.
We will miss Jackson Wheeler.
This is the loveliest tribute I have read in a long time. I feel I knew his heart from this very loving and concise response to his death. Thank you
Jackson Wheeler was both my friend and a poet I published. I am myself autistic. I had no idea about this aspect of Jackson’s efforts and energies. I knew him as a poet I was so proud to publish as well as a friend and esteemed member of the Southern California poetry community. We still miss Jackson so much. I miss hugging him.
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