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Learning to Live 8.5 Hours From My Autistic Daughter

The last time we talked
she said she wanted
every bone in her body
to break.
And so I picture her on a ledge
flirting with the idea of flying,
knowing she admires the flitting of butterflies
from one pollen hive to another
I watch her wings
open and close open and close
like they are breathing
like her wings are lungs

rhythmically pushing and tugging
at the October air.
When she jumps off that ledge
she is one with the autumn air
careening on currents,
her wings a blur of color
until she gently lands
on my shoulder
all bones intact
as she nuzzles my ear
humming that Lithuanian melody
I used to sing to her as an infant,
the one she recited in flawless Lithuanian
when she was twelve years old.
Years of sign language,
with me miming utterances
my fingers dancing words, whole sentences,
imploring her to speak
to say my name
to speak “‘mama”
but all she said for three years
was “minna minna minna.”
Which meant nothing.
Which meant everything.
I hold her in my hands,
bone connected to bone,
this fragile flesh of my flesh.
This daughter who speaks
in the language of butterflies.