These Shells

This was a poem done many years ago to reflect some of the experiences I had with the developmentally disabled clients my then-wife was working with at a local group home. I was amazed at how she interacted with them, and became struck by the fact that each of them, regardless of the severity of their disability, had their own unique and personal language for expressing happiness, want, anger, mirth, even sarcasm. But to a casual observer, like I had been, it simply looked like a hodge-podge of wild gesturing and odd grunts or loud wails. It took some time to see that the chaos of their expression did have pattern, intention, meaning, and often amazing creativity and economy, and that being with them and watching them closely was the only way to see those patterns, and learn who was inside.

These Shells

Find leg to step
Find arm to reach
Find eye to see

We are here
Inside These Shells

See deeply…

Twitch of eye is smile
Twisted lip is laugh
Straining grasp is embrace
Lunging head is yes!

Learn my language
And talk with me
While I am fed

See deeply…

My spirit burns with life
Somewhere inside
Life burns!

My love is no less impassioned
Thoughts no less potent
Touch is real

Itinerant dreams
Let me feel the motion
Of a world under my legs

See deeply…

We are here
Inside These Shells
Waiting for you

Copyright 1996 Learning Fire Publishing

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