“Tourette’s Sonnets” by Stephen Allen

Stephen Allen


My right hand shakes. What should I tell the children
I teach? This could be a very cruel lesson:
your body betrays you. I could skip medication,
but then the tics return, a different problem.

Long ago, before the current pills,
I slipped and told a class, “My brain is fucked.”
I couldn’t recover. Dispense with all the frills
and tell them, “It’s something medical.” I duck

the question again. No, I am not sick,
at least in ways they really understand:
not virus, not germ, not prion. Accept the tics
for what they are and give them pause. What can

I still explain? I want them innocent.
Put off for now the spiritual descent.

from Rattle #71, Spring 2021
Tribute to Neurodiversity


Stephen Allen: “Would I still be a poet if I did not have Tourette’s Syndrome? Probably, but I would be writing very different poems. I find the constraints of form useful to keep my tics in check, but I still jump around within the sonnets and terza rima and all. It’s a sort of balance, which I find difficult to achieve in life without medication.”

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