It’s day two of autism awareness week, and I’ve got another poem to share with you. “The Autist’s Reception” is on the theme of communication, specifically, how the vague, indirect language used by neurotypicals often causes their message to be lost, or misinterpreted by people on the autism spectrum. It’s author, Frank L Ludwig, has a diagnosis of high functioning autism.
The Autist’s Reception
Columbus left for Asia and was given
A letter to the ruling Khan which had
Been written by the ruling Spanish monarchs
But sailed to the Americas instead;
The King and Queen impatiently awaited
The Khan’s response and thought they’d been denied:
You see, the Khan had not received their message
Or else he’d have replied.
The angry boss looks at my desk and shudders
And shouts at me: ‘just look at this big mess’,
And so I look at it and then continue
My work. And he returns (enraged I guess),
He screams ‘How come that you still haven’t tidied
Your desk as you were told? I’ll have your hide!’
You see, I may not have received his message
Or else I’d have replied.
With an affectionate smile you sit beside me,
Ask my opinion of this little joint,
You ask about my interests and my background:
I answer truthfully and to the point
Like in an interview. You give up,
Thinking I brush your subtle overtures aside:
You see, I may not have received your message
Or else I’d have replied.
This poem is by Frank L Ludwig and can be found in Uncommon Minds: a collection of poetry and prose created by people with autism, which you can buy here:
What drew me to “The Autist’s Reception” was the comparison of an epic, historical event to the mundane acts of communication that we partake in daily, reminding the reader that both verbal and non-verbal communication are ingrained in everything we do. The final stanza (from ‘with an affectionate smile…’ onwards) really struck a chord with me. I presume that ‘subtle overtures’ Ludwig refers to is flirting, a form of communication that is mostly conveyed through body language, vocal tone and facial expression. These subtle signs and signals can be very difficult for someone with autism to interpret. There seems to be a general consensus that autistics are not interested in romance, dating or sex. When in fact, what tends to happen is that we simply do not receive the message, or else we would reply. On behalf of everyone with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, I would like to urge the neurotypical population to be more direct and explicit when dealing with matters of the heart.