Angeline Schellenberg


Complete this sentence: As long as it's healthy…

By the time your startle reflex has kicked in
and he's tested his grasp of your finger
(melting your belly from the outside)

you'll have counted his toes one to ten, twice,
as if there's something to do with missing toes
searched his frosted eyes, scried his tears

pressed his belly, the nurse for assurance
that unlike your brothers
he will someday write his name, hug you back

As you pour yourself into him at 3 am
stare out the glazed window,
rock rhythmically in the dark

* * *


I   knew   the   moment   I   caught   you   strumming 
the   rusted    vent   cover,   making    musical  notes 
sharp   enough    to  slice  baby   fingers   to   shreds,
your ear tuned only to the harp of  your own making,
my neck tingling  with  the  pain  you could not feel.
Florid  thrums   fill   the   gaps   in   red.    Resonate. 

* * *


1: A point A mark A sign A scar

a baby is born
wordless, without
wrinkle, no trace
of her future written
across her face

she's named, packaged
in pink, labelled
& shipped off to preschool:
poster child for Ritalin

she grows
tired of shrinking
to fit, smeared reflections, lying
crumpled before mirrors, masked
charades, make the grade, big fat broken

check the tag – she's not it, buy
into the Gap, Easy-
bake cupcake, boys jabbing forks
to see if she's ready

(Origin: stig: to stick or prick, from which we get our sting)

she wanders
through thorny dates,
rocky fields, nods & glares,
advancing by degrees, seeking
seclusion in books, wounds
concealed between the pages

(See also: the mark of Cain)

2: The sticky part of a flower

the girls at school
collect praise like the bee's knees,
scratch & sniff, lick & stick
filaments held together by the same style
banana clips, skipping ropes,
by week two they split:
alcoholic's daughter
teacher's pet

(from Greek: sigma & tau – unique characters fused into symbol)

3. A brand seared/carved into slaves

permanently pressed
somewhere between dark & delicate,
weary of exes & ohs,
ear piercing jeers, tattooed
hearts crossed by flames, power
skirt slit matches wrist

that woman's openhanded scars
sink in skin, itch and burn,
lips lined in red
reveal nothing

Plural: stigmata. (See: the wounds of Christ)

* * *


call to the stand
the mother of autism

dis-order is in the court

the holes in her appearance,
her son's flight from every scene,
his statements repeated
for the record

he did
exhibit a
range of delayed developments,
unusual behaviours
on the days and nights
in question

recall the forceps, the vaccines, her obvious admission of guilt

she will plead for a series of trials but
settle for a body of
         Strattera resolves hyperactivity causes depression,
         Prozac addresses depression releases aggressiveness,
         Risperdal arrests aggression adds weight
to our argument

her burden is proof

you will judge for yourself how well she's doing


"It's a boy" and "Pain threshold" were first published in the fall 2012 issue of Contemporary Verse 2 and "Stigma" in the fall 2012 Geez magazine.


Winnipeg poet Angeline Schellenberg writes about her experiences with two brothers who have Fragile X and a son and daughter with autism and ADHD. She has a Manitoba Arts Council grant to write her first collection about mothering children with autism. She's apprenticed under Don McKay at the 2013 Sage Hill Poetry Colloquium and Meira Cook in the 2012 Manitoba Writers' Guild mentorship program. Angeline's poems have appeared in Rhubarb, CV2, Geez, the Society, Prairie Fire and the Beautiful Women Anthology, and are forthcoming in The New Quarterly. She blogs at