“The Ember” – Words & Music by Autistic Typer John Smyth


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This video presentation of The Ember is narrated by Jim Smyth, John’s father.


“The Ember”
By John Smyth

When all I could lamely autistically do
was open my mouth and make sounds that made no sense
and behave in ways that were inconsistent
with what a normal person would think or do,
my autism looked as if it was what defined me
and was all I might ever be.
Looking back, who had a conversation
that it would ever be different?
The doctors and educators were certain
whatever quiet mind I had would never exceed
the thinking that described three year olds.
Each relationship that was in my life defined me this way.
Who would ever think any differently
swimming in this sea of worldly agreement?

Many will go, like all I know.
Will they find the ember?

Quiet, quaint me was isolated and marooned
without water or sustenance.
Wants as lastingly negative as just being sure
none would find me issued from self-quitting
as agreement combined with autism
taught each of us what was possible.
Quitting was really a way to assuage my awful wanting
and assume a hopefulness about waiting
as something God would need to kindly supply.
Was there ever a day that I wanted death?
Yes, I killed what I had,
the rest stolen by expert thieves with degrees.
Loss and abandonment became my world.
All of my dying within taught me patience, to wait on the Lord.

Many will go, like all I know.
Will they find the ember?

Was a day made back then when wasting life was not regretted?
Was life precious or cheap when I couldn’t have it?
I discovered patience to wait looks like happiness to be present in the moment,
and happiness is greatest when time stands still
and love is discovered shining as an ember of heat
in the lost stillness of isolation and freezing depths of despair.
Was a plan for deepening the human soul ever better invented
than to condemn a person to agreement that he or she will waste away
in the solitary cell of belittlement each day?
Really, for the intelligent, this defines life skills where I was
and reaches its zealously guarded zenith
measuring a child’s self-worth by what the broken body won’t do.
Ignoring the insidiousness of this, patience and happiness
are only what we can warm ourselves with in that cold.

Many will go, like all I know.
Will they find the ember?

Walkers in life are almost always given a better hand
than the severely autistic.
Few encounter the ember of love
in the depths of cold isolation and fear.
Everyone who does this witnesses the essence
of Who we each truly quietly reflect.
Wearing so much protection to cover it up, and
refusing to include those who encounter what we isolate
reaches tearful depths in wasted talent
and insight without countervailing benefit.
Whence does permission come to fulfill our purpose?
And when will God ask, “Was anything missing?”
Leaving what walkers easily would know within realms
of quiet embrace with the divine is our mission.

Many will go, like all I know.
Will they find the ember?

The place to discover the ember of love
is worlds away but so close
in the land of the nonverbal autistic.



About “The Ember”

Easy waiting, weary anguish, and quiet, awesome patience combine in my sad and hopeful poem. If you listen to the online version of this poem with my music, the early scores by me provide the sound of suffering in a scary and dark place. Was a poem ever more accurately written to share the tragedy and benefit autism can give to mankind? Really as we understand each other through poetry and music, teaching understanding will earn a richness in life that was not otherwise available. As my sadness was mixed with discovery of real love amid the cold isolation, another, more beautiful tone joined and then replaced the old. Then, as the lessons available to me sweetly are shared, grace becomes available and redemption reveals herself.

When I discovered the Ember, I realized that having a breath outside death is a privilege. For us, feeling pain and loss, tests inside of prison, leaving real sacrificial tears of despair- these experiences know all sacrifice assumed by all who have gone before or will come after. Living as standing for all that is divine and living in the experience of suffering for it unites one with the best of humanity, and calls forth a way to stand in peace and knowing alignment. Generating warmth from this place seems all part of awesome divinity’s bosom.

Under the worst of circumstances, I finally saw that life is a gift and privilege. All that matters is who will I patiently love in knowing moments of reflection, and life’s inspiration is in my bit-by-bit loving acceptance, nod to lasting meaning, and loss of self, transforming my wants to seeing the needs of others. Giving one’s best for Love and service to another is far more central to the ember of love than making knowing plans to lift oneself. Easy patience, when generated in hell, outweighs the tension of mastering a skill in one’s spare time. How we handle real abandonment and loss each day in a way that is a privilege, teases a breath from Autism’s vise.

When one aligns with the toasted awful suffering of humanity, this union lights one’s spirit with passion to serve. There is a real want to love and cherish and serve usefully with any abilities God gives me. There is surrender to a higher life. A life in service replaces my wants. Warrior service assumes a selflessness and aspirations for mission-driven results. When I live for those with sadness that makes mine mercifully light, I honor the life I was given, the mercy extended to me, and the warrior army I serve. When you look deep within, I suggest that the same is true for you, dear autistic sibling.

If “The Ember” connects with you, please allow me to share a little more. I hope to connect my own personal experience with autism to yours. My purpose is to let you know how related we nonverbal autistics are in our isolated experiences.

Read more from From Autism’s Tomb: “How Autism Crushes