In “Wildflower Bouquet,” which is one of the prose poems in Plums for Months, author Zaji Cox says, “I love the way mismatched things will fit perfectly together to make something imperfect.” In so many ways that statement sums up the unique observations of the neurodivergent author. She lives in a rambling and crumbling old house, then when the mother moves to an up-to-date condo where her boyfriend lives, she has no wind whistling through cracks, but far less space. She knows, first-hand, that we are all imperfect, and she accepts that fact without letting it lower her aspirations. She’s a girl who wants her braids to bounce and swing, a gymnast who wants to move from level 6 to level 7, and an astute observer of nature.
Because she processes input differently, she doesn’t have a lot of friends or the confidence of her older sister. When there’s no one to talk to, she takes great comfort in confiding in Jerry, her cat. She says, “He’s there when I can’t communicate right with the human world to which I supposedly belong…. Appearing whenever I need to talk but not talk with his curly-smile tail.”
Like many women who find themselves without a true listener, she handles the void by writing. Her worldview, seen through both her eyes and her heart, is laced with her evocative perceptions. She sees beauty where others see ordinariness. She offers new juxtapositions like “…I fashion a temporary stage on the blue carpet of the gym’s springboard floor with my compulsory-level routine and think about ways to destroy a brick wall,” and, when she’s speaking of her mother, “Too far to hear, we see the calm inside her work to guide and tame the anger, tame the my daughter to a volume that won’t shake the trees with the white noise of woman-yell.”
This is a beautiful memoir that shows the wonders of childhood and allows readers to get inside the head of someone who processes the world through autistic eyes and ears. I’ve noticed her verbal illustrations of what she sees, hears, and feels affecting my daily writing in positive ways.
Most of Cox’s short pieces are written in the style of prose poems. While they may impact readers differently, the lyrical language of these isolated moments is likely to stay with each reader.