(scroll down for YouTube video)


I’m devoted to manipulating

Or at least changing

Ridiculous parts of

The English language

Traumatized when barely 10 years old

Not even 5 feet


Asking my teacher

“Can I help with…?”


Towering over me

Valkyrie metal breastplate

Surely hidden beneath her

Teacherly folds of pre-60s

Color and fabric


She growing in stature

Me shrinking into chalky

Classroom floorboards

Classmates snickering

As I desperately tried

Deciphering why

She sneered

Me struggling with first generation English

With autism, before it was labeled

At home, asked Dad

He knew 5 languages

Could do the NY Times Crossword

Without a dictionary

Emigrated to the US at age 10

Quitting school at 17 to fight in WWII

He clueless, too

Mom, born 1929

Proudly saying she was depressed

Because born in the year of the Great Depression

She wrote little poems suitable for greeting cards

But never tried to publish them

No clue

But In her way, accusing

“What did you do???” she demanded

“Mrs. Donahue was my teacher too.

A good teacher!”

All of us clueless re cryptic


Next day a classmate took pity on me

I hate pity but grateful, this once

“May I?  is what you say,” said he

“Not CAN I.”

What? How’d I miss that?

On the day teachers said

“Today’s lesson is Grammar”

Did I think they meant “Hammer”

And chose to compose poems in my mind

Instead of listening to a lecture on tools?

It was finally nice to grow up

Into a fu*k you hippie

It was finally nice to major in English

And know the rules, but ignore them

I therefore NEVER say “MAY I?”

Only “CAN I?”

Traumatized by a word?


It shows in my poetry

That I call “not-poetry”

And oh, best of all,

I wear my own breastplate now…


© 2016 Clarissa Simmens (ViataMaja)

IMAGE: Valkyrie by the bastardson, deviantart


YouTube video: Richard Wagner, Ride of the Valkyries


  1. So you are autistic? No wonder you write so well. I had a step son I raised from age three who has Asperger’s. I say had because his father and I divorced when he was 13, although he still calls me mom. He is 30 now and this year got his own apartment, something I thought might not happen. I learned so much from him. His difficulty with words and body language and also his abstract skills that became his talents for his future were amazing. He knew how to read without ever being taught. I think it is wrong to try to make those under the umbrella of autism, act, behave and respond like “everyone else” to try to make them “normal”. Being normal isn’t always so hot, anyway. I’d wished many times I could crawl inside his head and experience life the way he does.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, SonniQ! I didn’t even know that I was autistic (don’t think the word existed back then) but my son is autistic and I guess I was in denial about him and just carried on as if all was ok. Every once in a while I’d know that I was also autistic but clicked into denial there, too. It’s almost a relief to know that there is a reason for my social skill problems. I think your stepson was very lucky to have you in his life for a while. We’re all different, though. My son has a different set of social problems than I have but the major problem will always be getting people to accept us, like us, for how we are. Sounds like you had no problem doing that with your stepson and he was very fortunate!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Unfortunately the problem was with the mother She was manic depressive.The boy was beautiful.Neither the mother our the father saw a problem but my kids were older and I knew something was wrong but didn’t know .it ll it was good to get a diagnoses before he turned three because he got into a class with 5 other toddlers to begin learning social. The mother was in complete denial and said we ruined him. We did go to court and the father got custody.She was angry at me for stealing her child. She couldn’t maintain. Became an alcoholic and died about 6 years ago of cancer.The father, my x and still very good friend was always there for her. There was no emotion from the son when she died. He felt she was never there for him so what was there to cry about. My x was a really good dad. Yes we were lucky to get a diagnoses rather than feeling the need to punish him for inappropriate behaviors. He was such an interesting boy to raise. I’m very proud of what he’s accomplished.

        Liked by 1 person

Comments are closed.