To Mellow His Meltdowns

Our son twists his face into the panicked look

you might get right before a car crash as he

stomps his foot and says Your mom’s

gonna get raped and you’re gonna cry

and we wonder where he heard that.

His behaviorist told us to whisk him off to his room

to mellow his meltdowns, so I say

Let’s go upstairs, Buddy,

but he screams No, I don’t have to

deal with this crap and we wish he didn’t.

He calls himself a jerk, slaps himself

hard and my cheek stings red

because my son’s autism is mine.

When my wife says Calm down, he curses us

until we both feel goddamned.

His words rappel from my ears into my throat

and I can feel that, for him, trying to keep silent

right now is like trying not to cough when the need

rises from your chest and tickles your throat.

He curses the whirling chaos of his world, slaps

his own face and his mom and I worry


about what happens next year

when he gets his driver’s license

if his tail-light goes out and the blue coplight

swirls in his eyes and the siren rings

in his ears and the officer says put your hands up

and our son reaches for his ID in his Batman wallet,

swaying, cursing at the officer who doesn’t know

that this boy has bought fifteen extension cords

of all colors and sizes that Youtube taught him

to tie into daisy chains, that he knows he owns

ninety-three shirts and can tell you

there are ninety-nine days until his birthday,

that he’s memorized the height and weight

of every president, watches Elf once a week,

and just needs to calm down in his room

with Johnny Thunders or Joey Ramone

soothing him through his phone

and what if the cop, hand on holster,

says Calm down, control yourself,

show me your hands, now, show me your hands?

Tom C. Hunley

TOM C. HUNLEY is a professor in the MFA/BA creative writing programs at Western Kentucky University. His forthcoming books are the second edition of his textbook, THE POETRY GYMNASIUM (McFarland) and WHAT FEELS LIKE LOVE: NEW AND SELECTED POEMS (C&R Press). Individual poems of his have appeared in Atlanta Review, Cimarron Review, The Pinch, Rattle, and Zone 3, among many others.

Contributions by Tom C. Hunley