Poem: Meltdown + Men in my Town


[Image Description: a drawing of a person in a rocking position with smoke and air bubbles pouring off them and fire inside. Behind them is the bright blue light of an ambulance, the trigger for the meltdown]

Poems by Frey Holmes
Art by Aiden Tsen


a lone fighter in an arena i am

a lion and a hyena i am

punching away my headache

and swinging towards my legs,

my knees, a martyr

burning at the stake for a broken steeple i am

the demon that prayed before i possessed it i am

Garcin’s hell in No Exit i am

other people.

wilder than the thought of fear i am

humanity’s pioneer i am

the inventor of the flying cars

first godforsaken queer on Mars i am

the martian that flays your skies i am

flinching at every sudden noise i am

capitulating to a brain and body that are both my own. i am

not alone,

or so I hear. i am

a toddler’s telephone i am

ringing into a void at the end of my line; i am

perfectly fine; i am

nothing to abhor.

it is frequent but it’s temporary;

if anger and fear are secondary

I wonder how I may have felt before.


melting into smoke i am

seeping through the cracks i am

at the edge of an orbit i am

resisting the gravity i am hilarity i am

taxidermy i am four feet in the air above my body i am

running out of words to say in a single breath.

it would not be death

if something shifted in my ribcage, a tiny

trapped thing, a

shiny mad thing that

is rocking in a library.

if there is no adversary then

the villain lives within.

i may be the mad thing.

and i do not mind the autism but

the meltdowns are a goddamn pain

and i will one day take my brain

and sit it on a tray, beating like a heart,

and i will take my glove clad hands and start

holding it there until it stops shaking.

only then will it be placed back, and the awakening

will be euphoric. i am dysphoric. i am

prehistoric i am

pyrophoric i am

making fires in my chest with the air

i am pulling at my hair i am

growing my third or fourth spine

and all of this unbearable time

the cause was just an ambulance siren.


speaking signs completely missed, i am

a thumb pulled from a fist, i am

staggering from inside the class, out

(oh my god he’s gonna pass out)

i’m another kid who hates his town i am

an elephant to mice i am

the gift of war to lice i am

the sea-locked sheet of ice i am

so tired of melting down.

I am autistic and I experience meltdowns. I like being autistic, and if I had the opportunity to do so, I would not change it. However, meltdowns are definitely something that I would change if I were able to. Definitions of meltdowns can be found on the Internet, but when people ask what they are like for me specifically, I find it very hard to explain to others in terms they will understand. They occur with different frequencies for every autistic person, and for me they happen a few times a week, but can be triggered by almost anything. I wrote this poem so that other people would understand what they feel like for me specifically, but, because every autistic person is different, I cannot promise that it will be an accurate representation of everyone on the autistic spectrum. 


[Image Description: a claustrophobic drawing of a rundown high street in muddy colours and fully shuttered]

Men Walking Through My Town, Narrated Partly By Their Government (With lyrics from Pure Imagination)

Come with me

And you'll be

In a world of pure imagination


he is not afraid.

this is not the same as ‘unafraid’; he is not bold

nor brave nor stupid, and courage belies his strange situation,

but, he says, if a ball is bounced for long enough it will eventually stop.

he has been walking for so many days,

a corpse with a purpose, but no life in his brain

to fight his poisonous apathies.

he holds a rounded object between his hands,

a globe in the face of a town of shrugging Atlases,

and he is grinning into violence, walking like

Prometheus, awake and rising,

staggering, igniting small sparks on Bridge Street and clawing

a smooth beak from the insides of him.

he is mad but he breathes the air

as though he thinks it worth imbibing

and I will not argue.

he is an ode to my guilt, a

human walking train wreck, colliding

on Main Street, spitting

salt and lying where he fell,

amongst the grit and the grease and the gilded town hall.


We'll begin

With a spin

Travelling in a world of my creation

What we'll see will defy explanation


shaking hands, so far from

any other man's hands, so unlike

every other man's hands,

calloused from strings, not wood.

the world is not

full of staring eyes, the world is itself the eye, leaving the night


awake and looking.


still, this is his retribution.

eyes are surgeon's scalpels and he is

covered in contusions;

thank God for light pollution

or the whole damn cosmos would see him!

there's eyelids on planets out there.

every lingering gaze turned towards him,

every reminder that if he had to fight he would,

it all serves to prove that he

will do what he needs to with no sense of right or wrong,

no ethics, nothing Confucian, nor the principles of Hegel nor Marx,

covered in marks;

every cotton bud pressed down that bit too tightly

to bite the bleeding sends a message;

we don't want your messes

we don't want your dresses nor your suits nor your wedding bands and holding hands,

shaking hands,

we don't want your fear,

you aren't wanted here.


There is no life I know

To compare with pure imagination

Living there you'll be free

If you truly wish to be


‘walk’ is apocryphal.

he sits.

there is a bus waiting to leave the bus stop across from the educational welfare centre.

he sits.

some percentage of what we call carrion is not yet dead.

he sits.

he is not sitting on the bus.

the driver is angry, now.

he sits.

the passengers are making comments.

the ones waiting to get on are attempting to reason.

he sees vultures like

a murder of angels, circling

around his head, cawing

empty threats, calling

for seraphims or swarms

or sirens to back them.

he sits.

the sirens are loud now.

once you have committed to an idea, it is hard to let go.

he sits.

if they throw him in prison, there will be a bed for the night.

if the driver gets impatient and presses

his foot ever so gently on the pedal,

the tyre tracks on his withered frame

will be a bed forever.

he sits.

he sits.

he sits, no more.


If you want to view paradise

Simply look around and view it

Anything you want to, do it

Want to change the world?

There's nothing to it.

Frey Holmes is a nonbinary author who uses both they/them and he/him pronouns. They are also queer. They are sixteen years old and based in the West Midlands of the UK. They are autistic and proud.