I Am a Spectrogram

by Christina Dalcher

parturition / explosiveness

We pop into the world with all the pent up force of a plosive, followed by an afterbirth of air. Experts in such things claim the afterbirth is prolonged if the mother’s first language is Korean or Tlingit, brief if she speaks Gaelic or Dahalo, but in all cases we are born with the same amount of accompanying pain and pleasure.


adolescence / aperiodicity

Our time after childhood is noisy, each experience shifting, volatile, indistinguishable from the next. We shout obscenities and protests, frustrations and follies, hissing aerodynamic complexities through our buckteeth while we wait for shapeless bodies to assume less fleeting forms. We are stupid and unappreciative and we are oblivious to how good things are.


pain / sibilance

Screams and shrieks and shivers are signs of something gone awry. They are strident and high-pitched and do not transmit over phone lines at times of stress. Suck it up, sweetheart, gnash your teeth, and remember that if you feel pain, it is because you feel.


sex / glottal

Touch us and swallow us while we swallow you and find yourself in our throats and in dark spaces sealed from the world by larynxes and cervixes whose pulsating rhythms look almost identical under stroboscopic conditions.


love / liquidity

We love fluidly, with the openness of vowels and with minimal constriction, and when love comes easily and early it is clear, watery, like the day. The variations of love—the unrequited, the fading, the lost—are dark and final and look very unlike the kind we long for. None of us is alone in this; light love and dark love are both universals in the world’s lexicon.


age / sonority

With the years come roundness of body and smoothness of thought. I and you morph into nous and noi. We are honest and exposed, strong enough to sing, knowing we face the final stages of an unavoidable weakening process.


death / lenition

When there are no more vowels, we eat our words like syrup through a straw until debuccalization is complete. Life’s sounds disappear inside us, the haches muets of French, the silent Es of English, and there is no more pain or noise when we delete ourselves. There will be other voiceprints and other waveforms, and they will share the features of our own, but they will be unique.

As ours were.

Christina Dalcher is a theoretical linguist from the Land of Styron and Barbecue, where she writes, teaches, and channels Shirley Jackson. Recognitions include The Bath Flash Award’s Short List, nominations for Best of the Net and Best Small Fictions, and second place in Bartleby Snopes’ Dialogue-Only Contest. Laura Bradford represents Christina’s novels, which feature a sassy and stubborn linguist. You can read additional short work at http://christinadalcher.com/writing/shortsandflash/ or follow @CVDalcher.

Photo by: Ana Prundaru