by Jasper Hardin
After Everything Is Gonna Be Ok and Josh Thomas
If a bouquet folded out of classical sheet music is a sign of love then so is the handmade accordion of envelopes M gave me in eighth grade. Each with a letter of what I meant to them. My also undiagnosed bestfriend who scripted Star Wars with me during recess and didn’t care who stared.
If asking your partner if she needs you to stay while she stims is love. Then so is the day I went nonverbal in the grocery store. N my youngest sibling grabbed my hand tight. Typed me messages back. Told me she loved me over and over and helped me get home.
My whole life I’ve been told autistic people cannot love. That we are an empty glass terrarium. A piano with all the keys removed. That something remarkable could have bloomed here if only I was living. That the most I ever will be is a dirty room filled with maggots. That my autonomy is something I cannot speak for. That I will never find someone who wants to lay next to me while I sleep covered in my weighted blanket. Who apologizes when they hurt me. Who tells me they love me while flapping their hands.
An autistic girl and her autistic girlfriend are now painted like an exquisite love story. Complete with a brother who tells her she’s not a burden. A misguided sister who always learns at the end. This has to mean my queer autistic self is a tent of monarch butterflies all flying in formation. That must mean I’ve always had worth.
If you, an autistic person, dance with your autistic partner or sibling or friend in front of all the people you’re scared will judge you. If you drown out your internalized ableism with original songs or you keep stimming when everyone tells you not to, then you must be a garden filled with roses folded out of everything you’ve ever adored.
Jasper Hardin is a poet of many identities who lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. They competed in the 2018 Rustbelt Competition. They are the author of the self-published chapbook I Could Be A Galaxy. They founded a literary journal dedicated to non-speaking and semi-speaking disabled writers and visual artists called Explicit Literary Journal. They have work published in The Mighty, Rising Phoenix Review, What Are Birds and Runestone. Jasper is the co-creator of the one act play The Golems Protect Themselves, which made its debut at Final Frontier Festival. They wholeheartedly believe that dragons are real.