As it turns out, the poem ranked third place for Best Poem of 2014. The anthology in which it appears, Fractured Realms, got #5 in the Best Anthology category. All in all, not bad! A great honor to be nominated and receive so many votes! All proceeds earned for Fractured Realms are given to the Autism Trust, so it's good for the cause when we manage to pull in a few extra readers.
Autistic Teen Left Paralyzed After Bullies Force Him Off Bridge
Bullies Drench Autistic Boy In Bodily Fluids
Why Autistic Kids Are Bullied
For the main character of my poem, I chose a boy with an extreme form of autism that prevents him from speaking. There is no way for him to express his feelings to his peers. Until one day, something wondrous happens....
The Voice Inside The Mirror
"Lonely" was a loaded word
Zaine wished his lips to speak.
But though his mind was crying out,
his mouth spoke not a peep.
His feelings, bottled up inside
the prison of his brain
were triggered by the sights and sounds
that, daily, tortured Zaine.
Too much, he thought but couldn't say,
too much is taking place,
an endless stream of lights and noise
and countless thoughts to chase.
He plugged his ears against the noise
and longed for it to cease.
His muscles twitched beneath his skin
and itched for a release.
Red-hot, piercing pinpricks stung
his flesh as he refused
to flail his arms and flap his hands
and let his demons loose.
Worse yet than his body's pain:
the crowd's relentless gaze,
observing him with cold regard,
a rat trapped in a maze.
Peculiar boy, misunderstood,
whose brain often betrayed him.
His peers moved with a steady stride;
his special needs delayed him.
But there was something he could do
that no one else was able.
When he stood before a mirror,
young Zaine could turn the table.
No longer was he crippled by
the limits of his mind.
In the mirror's reflected twin
a vibrant brilliance shined.
The first time his reflection smiled,
Zaine wondered, Who are you?
The strange boy only winked an eye,
reached out and pulled him through.
The mirror opened up to Zaine;
glass suffered not a fracture.
He tumbled through, fell to his knees,
and dropped his jaw in rapture.
Before his eyes, this world made sense,
a place built just for Zaine,
customized to fit his needs,
tailored for his brain.
He found himself returning each day
when he felt alone.
Though he knew he couldn't stay.
This place was not his home.
One day a bully followed him,
seeking a little fun.
(He liked to corner smaller boys
and tease them til they'd run.)
He watched his victim slip away,
In shock, he felt defeat.
The mirror seemed to swallow him,
first head, then chest, then feet.
How can this be? The bully thought,
reaching out to touch the glass.
It didn't yield, hard to the touch.
Why did it let Zaine pass?
And now, filled with that burning rage
that fuels young troublemakers,
he scanned the room with wild eyes,
hoping to find glass-breakers.
He ripped the lid from the commode
and swung with all his force
until a splintered spiderweb
rained down onto the floor.
And in those shiny, shattered pieces
a strange sight did appear:
a hundred tiny Zaines stood there,
gazed out from in the mirror.
"Why?" Zaine asked, this question
echoed from his mass reflections.
"Why do you hate me?" he repeated
from the mirror's fragmented sections.
The bully frowned and shook his head.
He'd never heard Zaine speak.
He didn't have an answer;
his heart felt heavy; knees felt weak.
He gathered up the pieces
and he passed them out at school
to all the kids who'd done Zaine wrong
and labeled him a fool.
The shards, they told a story
of a boy, not unlike them,
who wanted to be understood,
but ended up condemned.
Inside that mirror, he found his voice.
What was reflected there?
The soul of a boy, so differently wired,
his struggles so unfair.
Together, the kids who'd tortured him
fixed the mirror with tape and glue.
They held their breath and waited,
hoping Zaine would step back through.
And when he did, an odd thing happened.
They cheered and welcomed Zaine.
They celebrated his return,
this boy and his wondrous brain.
Now when they look into the mirror,
they think of that special kid
and smile, remembering the voice he found
and the magic trick he did.
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