Broken, Wandering Scavenger (for B, my 17-year-old non-verbal autistic son) by Rosemarie Dombrowski

You were always broken, at least according to Gray’s Anatomy and the DSM-5.

So they patched you with Gortex and string, sewed a tiny wetsuit into the ventricles of your heart. They played piano on the floor of our living room for months, desperate for you to sing. They made you ride horses despite your inability to sit upright in the saddle. They tried to make you play games you didn’t understand the rules of. They tried to teach you how to clap despite the fact that you didn’t know what a hand was, the difference between left and right.

I’ve never liked gluing things back together, from the toxicity of the glue to the nausea it induces to the unpredictable placement of the veins, like erratic tributaries without a source. I like knowing where things come from. And where they’re going.

You, conversely, have always liked broken things – from the stray leg of a doll to a shredded page of a book to a device in need of charging, something whose surface you could transform into a canvas, salivate your way into mastery of with only five fingers.

You’ve always been a scavenger in a world of civilized people.

There’s no one like you in the city, so I suspect that there are few of you in the world. Mute and yet fascinated by the nameless objects that clutter our lives. Devoid of the desire to express yourself and yet comforted by the presence of the people who are constantly expressing every idle thought that pops into our heads. It seems that you’ve developed an affinity for us, but I doubt that you’d call it reliance. You’d prove to us that you could scavenge your way to survival if you had to.

Accordingly, you’ve always liked useless things – like strings without balloons, laces without shoes, lids with no corresponding containers. You live in a world of this-and-that-knick-knacks, the mismatched and the obsolete, stuff that only a stubborn lover of repurposing would appreciate.

Currency means nothing to you, and so you grab as you go, stow it away for the car ride home, lodge it between your molars for days.

You’ve always been a wanderer without a destination.

When you first saw the ocean, you cooed and cawed into the surf for hours, walked the beach so briskly I could barely see your bright orange trunks in the distance. And there have been other wanderings, too; the aisles of antique stores, fields filled with vendors and stages, pools and the occasional creek. You are en route to everywhere and nowhere simultaneously.

When I bought us a house, I painted the insides blue. I hung the solar system on the ceilings and walls. I dollied your badly gnawed headboard and scratched dresser into position. I moved countless bins containing your VHS and mega-block collections. I’ve always prided myself on being the stabilizing force, the consistency in an otherwise chaotic world.

But the last time I cried, you let me stroke your forearm and cheek for hours, as if to say without words that whatever it was, it was going to pass, and regardless, there was no place you’d rather be.

Rosemarie Dombrowski – Is the founder of rinky dink press, the co-founder/host of the Phoenix Poetry Series, and an editor at Four Chambers Press. Her collections include The Book of Emergencies, which was the recipient of the 2016 Human Relations Indie Book Award (Personal Challenge category), and The Philosophy of Unclean Things. She teaches courses on the poetics of street art, ethnic literature, and creative ethnography at Arizona State’s Downtown campus. Additionally, she is the inaugural Poet Laureate of Phoenix, AZ.

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