The poem we share today comes from Emma Kemp, social worker and poet from Coventry, UK. 

During this global pandemic direct care staff who serve people with disabilities are being challenged to provide care in a new way.  On top of the physical demands of precautions to prevent the spread of the virus there also seems to be an increased need for openness and connectedness with the people they’re serving. 

We hear in this poem a craving for connection, a moment between two people, two souls.  The author explains that although her faith may not be explicit in the poem, “there’s something about honouring people’s experiences and struggles which I think is profoundly spiritual.”

Sensory Processing Disorder

As she looks at me, she chews her lip
rhythmically. There is a subtle panic

in her eyes: she is trying to read me,
trying to understand what it is I could want

from her, but she picks up nothing at all
from my best encouraging face.

Instead, I try to read her (it is my job)
and my thoughts wander to what it must

be like for her, with her autism, with her
Sensory Processing Disorder. The sound

from the road of drilling irritates me somewhat.
I remember how she told me once that

the noise at the bus stop was enough
to cause her to bang her head hard

against the shelter. Still she looks
at me, and I have not the least idea

what would calm her so that she stops
the chewing, stops the banging. I break

my gaze. So, too, the drilling stops, and
for a moment, we have silence. She reaches

for the familiar questions, her comfort blanket:
how's Michael? how's the cats? I readily oblige,

soothe her with certainty and forget all about
the noise, and the banging at the bus stop.
Emma smiles at the camera, wearing red glasses and a dark red tshirt.
Emma Kemp lives and worships in Coventry, UK, where she is an active member of her local Anglican church and runs the Coventry Stanza of the Poetry Society. She is a social worker, working in a range of contexts – in a local authority disability team, and independently as a safeguarding consultant and chronic pain specialist. Emma’s poetry has been published online in such journals as Poems for Ephesians and Ekstasis. She won Theatre Absolute’s Pillar Poetry prize with her poem Phoenix, a call to action about the choice between the collapse and redemption of a city. Her work deals with themes of spirituality, the natural world and finding hope in dark places.