Breath & Shadow
Winter 2020 - Vol. 17, Issue 1
"Echolalia" and "Two Years"
How apt, then, to be named for my brother,
so like him I have always been.
Other names for me exist but his name
has lingered on my tongue long after the rest,
clinging to taste buds like aspartame.
Precocious preschooler turned inarticulate
at a sock seam, rainman.
Reads at four but will never touch suede
in all her years, rainman.
Anger and shame cut the tongue from my mouth
and I can communicate with only the body, rainman.
Bruises hidden in a hair line, rainman.
My world is a brazen bull, every touch a new blister,
every cry for help becoming wordless screams,
rainman, I have been broken down and built back up
with my eyes stitched to yours, rainman,
I have learned to live in the red-hot spaces,
to speak with no tongue, only for you, only for you.
She takes after her grandmother,
the girl who flinches when nothing shouts
in the library on a Wednesday afternoon.
You can see her tremble when she
lifts her hand to her mouth and bites
wet trenches into the meat
of her open palm, her eyes vacant,
broken windows in a haunted house.
She hears people speak through water,
their voices muddy, blurred,
and she nods, and nods.
She is not the type who should
be allowed to drive. Some people think
she might be better off in a room
with no windows.
She lies in the dirt, crepuscular,
opening and closing a long-nailed hand,
and listens to the ones who are not speaking.
She cannot hear her heart beating
over the gnawing of insects
that seems to come from everywhere.
Olivia Swasey is an autistic writer from Cleveland, Ohio. A graduate of Kent State University, she holds a BA in English. She is passionate about LGBT and disability rights activism, and is active in her Jewish community. She has been previously published in Luna Negra Magazine and Brainchild Magazine. She can be found on Twitter, @oliviaw_swasey.