What did you sound like?

Lucas Thompson

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

UReCA: The NCHC Journal of Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity 2020 Edition


What did you sound like?



   What did you sound like?

             I don’t think I remember—which is funny

         since, for so long, you were all

    I could hear.

  Did you sound like stirring fingers into buckets full of seashells, that summer on the gulf? Like

   the hot ocean sand slurring around my thighs, the churning clouds, the roar

      of a jet, like thunder, looking into the conch colored sky, wondering

             if it was you

                             in that dot

                             a thousand miles up, there,

                                       right there

                                                     for once, in front of my



                                                                         Like the beehive in my speakers

                                                                        that buzzed every time

                                                                   you laughed? Or the moon

                                                      brushing my shoulders, your lips pressed

                             to your phone, a thousand miles away, showering

           me with cherry chap-stick butterflies—

    “What were those?”



   “Yeah, for you.”


                                    you thought I was sleeping, and you whispered—

                        speaker buzzing, breath fluttering, shivering, like hot salt waves

                                    slushing over seashells—

                                                  “Sweet dreams. I love you




               there were the cracks in your voice

                      that slipped out your smile, out

               the crooked white gaps

of your toothy grin. I know somewhere,


I have your breath,

             your laugh,

               your pause,

                       your words

  oh, those words that I’d strained—heartstrings tight—for so long

              just to hear, from before

                        we found facetime, from when it’d been years

                                   of only letters, texts, from when we only wrote, those days of

                                      waking up every day earlier, going to bed evermore late, listening to the sun

                                           sigh as it rose, gold, every morning, waiting just to hear

                                                                    that note from my phone that meant

                                                                               you were awake, too,

                                                                                    in your far away home, hours before

                                                                                          your own dawn

                                                                                          just to hear me.

                                                                  I have you, your faceless voice, your voiceless face, caught

                                                                               like a butterfly in a net, fluttering

                                                                        with your every word, safe inside, but

                                                                     I never open, too afraid

                                                                       to let you out,

                                                                     afraid to look and

                                                                  to hear, afraid

                                             that you’ll be too loud, you’ll flutter away, and I’ll run after you again and stumble and scrape, too heavy, bones like lead like they were

              the last time I heard you


                                        your voice wasn’t

                                                           in my ears

                                                                  when only

                                                     the aching

                                         sinking into my sheets, phone falling from my limp,

                          moon cratered hands

                                                                   your voice crack

the silence my



                                burning hot

                                         lava lamp threatening to

                            burst from my eyes your

                                                                                                                                 fist plunged

into my

                                          throat like

                                                                      that bucket

                                                                                  full of seashells,

           unable       to speak,         only  choke    and

                        listen to                my    bones



        your breath ,

                            your hand

                                                            in my neck the

                        waver the


                        the beehive

                                                                                  buzzing in my speakers          full

                                                                                     of your breath,






   I pretend that you ask,

               “What did I sound like?”

‘cause I want you to know

       that all I let myself hear

                are your shivering breaths when I hung up,

                                                    and all of you


                                                                                              in my ear.

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