The Tall Autistic Boy Spits on my Head
by Robert Lavett Smith Robert Lavett Smith

Born in Michigan in 1957, Robert Lavett Smith grew up in northern New Jersey, in a suburb of New York. Since 1987, he has lived in San Francisco, where for the past thirteen years he has worked as a Special Education Paraprofessional for the San Francisco Unified School District. He holds an M.A. in creative writing from the University of New Hampshire, where he studied with Charles Simic and Mekeel McBride. In 1982, he studied with Galway Kinnell, as a member of the Master Class at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. He is the author of four small-press chapbooks and, most recently, of a full-length collection, Everything Moves With A Disfigured Grace (Alsop Review Press, 2006) (available from Amazon). All of these are free verse works. A collection of his sonnets will be published by the Full Court Press some time next year.

The tall autistic boy spits on my head—
A gesture more confounding than disgusting—
One way he makes frustrations felt instead
Of speaking. But he has no trouble trusting
Me, if the unplumbed channels of his eyes
Are any indication, for I see
Within their voiceless depths brief tempests rise,
Never maliciously or angrily.
Moments like this I wish I weren't bald,
Although the spittle's quickly wiped away,
And he grins crookedly at me when called
To join his teachers. No, he cannot stay;
Though what impels him with such urgency
Remains a tantalizing mystery.

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