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Breath & Shadow

Winter 2017 - Vol. 14, Issue 3

"Stuff My Non-Verbal Brother Says" and "Childless, Hormonal College Girls at a Baby Shower"

written by

Alyssa Radtke

"Stuff My Non-Verbal Brother Says"

I lost the ability to convincingly imitate my brother's various vocalizations since his voice dropped. He has a deep man voice; I'm an alto and sound like five-year-old him, at best.


Smiling “Rawrs" while looking in your direction, rising in intonation as you near

           I like the noise you're making, clanking down the hall.

Tornado siren shouts at 11:05 on a Sunday Hurry up, Pastor, you're running long.

Slightly coughed purr.

           Ah...that tickles. I like it.

Lung capacity testing howling

           I know it's two a.m., but I've got something to say. LISTEN!

Face scrunched in a pruny “O," tongue sticking though the hole Various levels of "DO NOT LIKE!"

Tongue working away happily

           This, this expensive wine you gave me a taste of on your finger, I LOVE.

Medium length question-yelps, repeating every minute or so

           I'm not a potted plant, why did you leave me alone? At least turn on some music.

Darth Vader breathing

Why, oh, WHY are you wiping my face?

Punching someone in the clavicle while lying on the pull-out couch I need leverage to see what's going on over the back of the couch. YOU are that leverage.

Static-like chirps, breaking up your phone call home

           I hear your voice! Where are you and your noise?

Cheshire toddler-smile

I know I'm cute enough to get away with whatever mischief I just did-including goosing you.

Really lecherous glances in the direction of that cheerleader who just called him “adorable"

           Come a little closer, babe, and I'll cop a feel.

Sigh, while wearing round sun glasses

I love the shade. This is the best.

"Childless, Hormonal College Girls at a Baby Shower"

Do you want boys or girls?

I ask, and they give the typical answer:

Healthy babies,

able bodies implied.

Like them.


When there aren't kids

with sparking smiles,

my candlewax ovaries

can be counted on to recall

the smothered baby

dolls of childhood-strangled

as I tried to hold them

and walk upright-

and the kitchen

I can't wheelchair in.


But, lit by weapons

grade adorable,

these traitors wick away

at reason 'til my

womb is a churning estuary

of rationalized


So, I compromise-


I don't want able-bodied kids.

Couldn't keep up with 'em.


The other girls at me like I've

tipped candle to crepe paper,

burnt the living room down.

Because I might



want a child like me.

Alyssa Radtke is currently pursuing a M.F.A with a poetry concentration at the University of Memphis. Her first short collection of poems, Ramped Soapbox, can be found online at The University of Mississippi's Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College thesis repository.

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