Autism Level 1 Speaks
By Theresa Werba
In a world of hyper-stimuli,
Lights and sounds and touches,
I retreat into the world within myself
There is too much to process
all at once,
It comes at me like a screaming hoard,
shoving up against my walls
and forcing me to interact.
Why interact? Most talk like that is
stupid, pointless, irrational.
If you do not care how I am today,
why do you ask me how I am? Just say
Good Morning or Hello!
It is this stupid, slow world,
where I move faster, think better,
that frustrates me.
And when you talk, do I
really understand? Why is it
that we misalign, why do
I misperceive what you are saying?
Is this why you are frustrated
Why is my voice too loud,
my speech too intense?
Why do you think I’m being rude,
when I am just annoyed?
You do not like the things I like,
the things that interest me,
and I could talk unimpeded
for hours about these
very interesting things
unless you stopped me.
It could be canals, or the Shakespearean authorship issue,
or points of linguistics,
or the study of late Antiquity, or Jewish history,
or poetry— my poetry.
You do not understand the tiny things
that matter so much to me, or why they do,
why I must tell you every detail,
every minutiae, why I have to explain,
everything, every little thing.
My mental world is overloaded and then
I go outside where the world
is overloaded and then
I can do no more.
At times it seems I do not even care
because in that moment it is simply
not available for me to care.
But inside myself, my heart
is wide, and deep,
so deep I have to shut it off
in order to get through the
interactions in which
I must engage.
Why has it always been so hard
to walk into a store,
or interact in public?
Must I always play the game,
must I always act, pretend,
and be somebody else
just to buy something?
My mind explodes
with ideas, thoughts,
learning and logic,
connections and observations,
but when to stop, and when to give you
a turn to speak
I am learning to do this to this very day.
Without the social mask, I’m sure
you would not like me;
being myself is one long conversation
But I have learned to smile,
to look into your eyes,
to be politic when necessary
(though I hate necessity),
to play the nice game of
If you would only understand!
My heart is not my
talking, but I am truly
trying to reach you through my
talking, and so I’m talking,
on and on and on and on and on.
For rages come, and anger,
the cursing, the frustrations,
Why is everyone so stupid?
Why am I in a world of idiots?
Why doesn’t this person
have a brain?
Perhaps my only disability
is my intelligence.
My hyper-wired brain
is both an advantage
and a defect.
Rigid and inflexible to sudden change,
it sends me into spasms
as I try to figure out what
is now going on.
But it is not supposed to be this way!
That’s not what the menu said!
That’s not what you told me before!
What I cannot process I therefore cannot understand,
And the world then makes me angry
Only in the confines and restrictions
of my bed, my routine morning puzzles
my daily evening internet and reading,
am I at equilibrium.
Here it is I can find a bit of the quiet,
absent within my own mind.
So when I talk, that is truly me,
trying to get out, one iota of the cosmos
within, one speck of the vast
universe of my thoughts.
Wouldn’t you like to join this world and
listen for a little while?
So, be patient with me, try to listen through,
try to understand,
because inside I am very, very alone,
just my solitary thoughts and me,
trying to be heard.
Theresa Werba is a 60-year old poet, author and voice teacher who was diagnosed with autism in her 50s. She is the author of three books of poetry (under the name Theresa Rodriguez), her work ranging from forms such as the ode and sonnet to free verse, with topics ranging from neurodivergence, love, loss, and aging, to faith and disillusionment and more. She hold a Master of Music in voice pedagogy and performance from Westminster Choir College. Follow Theresa on Twitter and Instagram @thesonnetqueen. Her website is www.bardsinger.com