Autism’s Got Talent, Ruislip 2019 …. a night I will never forget and will carry with me to my last breath.
Watching my son, who by this time next year will be more qualified than the head of English teacher and her team who categorically told me that Ollie “would never achieve more than two GCSE’s “due to his autism (and who removed English literature from him as well as the higher GCSE paper in English) , reading out his poetry to an audience of hundreds where you could have literally heard a pin drop, really brought home our journey.
Each of the three poems Ollie read were met with thunderous applause that felt like it would lift off the very roof. I couldn’t believe my eyes or ears. As I peeked out through the wings on stage I could see people wiping their tears. People back stage were crying and I was crying too because I cannot believe all my son has achieved through so much, both at home and school, to become the gentle, kind, incredibly talented , giant of a man he is today.
I don’t think my heart will ever return to its normal size after this.
Ollie read some poetry from his first anthology “Lungs” about some of the horrific domestic abuse he both saw and then later experienced directly, prompting our departure from such a toxic atmosphere. He also read a poem from his second anthology “Wings” which is “a collection where Ollie reflects on the domestic abuse of his mother and the family , becoming a space where vulnerabilities and hope are explored in the butterfly transformations of his mother. ” The anthology is dedicated to me and simply says “For my Mum,who always taught me to find my song”.
Anna Kennedy OBE kindly invited Ollie to sell his books on the evening. It all felt so surreal seeing my son who I have advocated for all his life, now advocating for others by taking part in such a impactful event.
Each act, each unique , strong, beautiful human being ,was so powerful and gifted that Ollie said to me during rehearsals that he didn’t feel adequate by comparison. My heart went out to him as this message is one he has had for so long from so many. The chilling fact is that each of these kids’ stories could have been so entirely different if they hadn’t had someone believing in them. And half of them,including Ollie, almost ended up not being here at all after being driven to suicidal thoughts and attempts when their gifts went unheard along with their voices.
After the show Ollie pulled me to one side away from the crowds, and very quietly said “Mum, for the first time in my life I feel a tiny bit proud.”
Yes – I did cry again …buckets,! It had taken Ollie 22 years , a Degree and participating in Autism’s Got Talent to at last feel of worth.
I feel even more strongly than ever that Autism’s Got Talent should be on mainstream TV, played at school assemblies and absolutely incorporated into teacher training. If only they could be made aware of how when you tap into that special ability and find what I call their super power …. these kids FLY ! Thank you to Anna Kennedy OBE ,Phil Barnett, Steven Smith,Dawn Avery Lisa Robins and all of Anna’s hard working team and ambassadors for getting all our special children heard.
Following the inundation of emails and messages I received after the show, here are copies of the three poems which Ollie read out. The actual footage of him reading them out at the show can be found on my Therapies For Special Needs FB business page, YouTube and Anna Kennedy Online.
Straight Jacket Of Flies
You feel them tug free sometimes: horseflies,
botflies,craneflies,fruit flies,picture-winged flies –
the ensemble is fear.It must feel horrible,
knowing that wherever you go,they will
surely follow.This is how we felt father
when you bugged us, to the point where my chest
would tighten if the phone rang – you’d
be in the background listening to every word.
You set up this landscape of fear for me:
now you’re living it.Every waking moment you tremor
at the nail varnish colours of their thoraxes.
Their stirring reminds you too much of the new baby you left
that night to take a flight to Indonesia.
It’s crying out for a father went unheard,
Mother slept with it that night ,crying over it’s head.
The flies keep you busy, falsifying albums
of our so-called ‘privileged life’ as evidence
for Crown Court.The botflies remember;
looping their milky eggs in your scalp.Mother had
a flower pot business and taught French as a private tutor
to keep her family from going homeless.
Now, horseflies crowd in around your eyes,
turning the eye sockets inside-out.You had money
that you spent at hotels with mystery women
you were having affairs with.
You have nothing now.
The flies know.
Under The Wheels
The night you left The White Horse pub
with father,he pushed you through
the car door. Heft up inches
from the asphalt and the road
darting away like a massive
tarmac arrow.You were flightless
as you scooped your knees
and laddered your tights on the road.
He dangles you by a string of air.
He says, “You’re having an affair with John”. The recoiling ferns and gridded
oaks’ boughs at at he wayside put
their ears to your complaints; ‘Let me go,
let me go’. Then a tough wind blew
up a sail of your dress and you could
feel the cold in your bones.
You tried to kiss the unbearable gravel
like it was holy soil. Father rose over you
with gritted teeth ,roaring at you,
ravined V-lines veins set the tension
in his forehead as he bent
his face to yours. You will never
forget that night or that look
in his eyes.
My father stepped on my back so hard,why so hard?
A loveless chain of thorns he strung on each of our necks.
The false purples cancelling out the crimean flush in our chests,
like the love that was traded in, for the malice he wreaked.
Its vine decaying the good ores of virtue I have in my flesh vessel
Your vessel no more.
“Dad,why are you waiting on the stairs at night?
What is that black box you clutch to your chest
like an unseasoned Pandora’s box? Small,
ticking silently in its mechanical heart.
A past fever pumped in my veins like a concealed guilt.
I knew, you knew, of the lies you’d built inside.
The treacherous glee you hide but show in your cold blue eyes.
A hoar frost dissolving on the tongue of an adder
tasted with self-glorifying ill-will.
When a boy of 17 tells his father to stop lying,
his father’s eyes crinkle as small as sunflower seeds,
as though he’d got a sour taste of lie in his mouth.
He told me these words, opening his jack-knife smile,
“I could never lie to you, I wouldn’t hurt you like that ” he’d say anxiously.
Never is a hyperbolic word.
I let out an inward gasp; the sound a balloon makes
when popped by a needle.
Or the balloon that my border terrier burst through
to bite with salivating maul the soft skin of my shoulder.
No,no,no, this object: spike, steak, spear
has pricked me in solitude ,when I should be
waiting in the corridors of my house,
listening for pretend coughing, the kitchen tap running,
the slow breathing on the walls, is this all inside my head ?
You tell me if you are talking to someone behind a closed door
and someone is listening outside :
does something feel funny about the air ?
how it lies thick, pregnant and obscure in your oesophagus.
My father will talk of how he met (trapped) my mother;
red peacock butterflies in a jam jar,
leaving her in the enclosure of cling film and glass.
In these transparencies of space
the butterfly could only glimpse the wasting powders on her wings.
A lidded sky,housetop,every morning and night is shut,
the edges of a face looms in the sky,
says come out, spread your wings.
Is it the Joker or the moon, that this seems to sing ?