I teach at a WITS after school program in Pasadena, a city that’s considered a suburb rather than a separate place because it is adjacent to the city limits. One of my children, Adam, is autistic. It wasn’t obvious immediately, but eventually I noticed that Adam was different from the other children.
Despite whatever associations you may have with autism, Adam was never a “problem child.” He completed his work, participated in class, and earned his place as one of my best students.
Every writer strives to have a unique voice; Adam, without question, has one. This is one of his poems.
Sunday, 1 P.M. Movie starts right now.
Watch the Giant Spider, 1975. The Adam Ventura Show, at 12:30 A.M.
Japan, Mexico, Korea, USA.
1957 Chevrolet, Bellaire Lowrider. It’s been to Chuck E. Cheese’s, America’s Incredible Pizza Company.
Hot Wheels. Mount Rushmore. Houston.
When I read his poems, I feel as if I am peeking in on a fully realized world where I, the teacher, am a mere visitor. Still, I had to ask: Why was Adam, a 4th grader, thinking about movies and cars that had their heyday before I was even born? What was the ‘Adam Ventura’ show? (Ventura is not his surname). Did he dream about Japan, Mexico, and Korea – what did these countries mean to him?
Like many creative works, Adam’s poem raises more questions than it answers. It practically brims over with invisible associations and personal, private meanings – a whole inner life communicated in a few terse lines. The stop-and-start punctuation was typical of Adam’s writing.
I did eventually meet Adam’s parents. According to them, Adam will, to this day, go to his room, set up a drive-in movie (even though his parents have never taken him to a drive-in). Lining up his toy cars around a white patch of wall, Adam screens his imaginary movie for hours. Not even his parents know what that movie consists of or what, in truth, he fantastic story is imagining during that time. However, I like to think that this poem, in its compressed but nuanced way, imparts a rich, textured sense of what being Adam might really mean.