The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Carol Guess and Kelly Magee’s “With Animal”

Guess Pic  Magee Pic
With Nebula

You are there and not there. Visible on one ultrasound, nearly gone by the next. On the
movie screen over the examination table, a haze of lights, constellations flashing and
whirring, everything so busy, pulsing and sliding and shapeshifting, bone and muscle,
brain and tissue. And off to the side, next to all the motion, I see you: a pebble of solidity.
A seed. A mass of motionlessness, dark.
     You are Baby B. A vanishing twin, in the process of unbecoming. I can watch it
on the screen, the fade, the shrink, the way you are beginning to condense and condense
into what never was. Bits of you flaking off. You could be anything at all: goldfish,
planaria, star. A mixed-up mash-up of genes, animal and human, human and astral, real
and un-. Whatever it was, it didn’t work. The word the ultrasound tech uses is
reabsorbed, though the more I think about it the less sense that makes. You are not being
absorbed again – the first time was a striking out, a leap, the opposite of assimilation.
You will not go back the way you came. You move into new territory, fanning out. Part
of me and not part of me at all, the way the healthy one, the human one – Baby A –
becomes. There she is, though I don’t yet know she’s a she, thrusting forward,
broadening, differentiating. Separating into detail. The line between us so clear, so easy
to locate on this map.
     Not so, for you. You’ll have no labor, no birth. Instead of pushing, we relax.
Instead of contracting, we expand. Each cell becomes less distinct but more itself: you
will never be anything but Baby B. This dense knot. These broken strands of DNA
unwinding, these peeling layers – face and sex and potential – released into the wilds of
my body. My body, where there is only and always the two of us, which is one of us,
which is you vanishing and me, gravid. You are the part of me that recedes over and over.
I can stay here as long as I like, the ultrasound tech says, and I think I would like to stay
here, perpetually full of you, unable to hold and yet always holding you. Without touch,
like breath. Like fullness. You are buoyancy and flux. You are the opposite of weight.

This selection comes from Carol Guess and Kelly Magee’s collection With Animal, available from Black Lawrence Press. Purchase your copy here!

Carol Guess is the author of fourteen books of poetry and prose, including Darling Endangered and Doll Studies: Forensics. Forthcoming books include The Reckless Remainder, co-written with Kelly Magee, and Your Sick, co-written with Elizabeth J. Colen and Kelly Magee. She teaches in the MFA program at Western Washington University. Find her here:

Kelly Magee is the author of Body Language (UNT Press 2006), winner of the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction, as well as the forthcoming collaborative works The Reckless Remainder and Your Sick. Her writing has appeared in Kenyon Review, Crazyhorse, Gulf Stream, Ninth Letter, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Passages North, and others. She teaches in the undergraduate and MFA programs at Western Washington University. Find links to her work at

A recipient of a 2015 NEA Fellowship for poetry, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, Staci R. Schoenfeld’s poems appear in or are forthcoming from Washington Square, Mid-American Review, North Dakota Quarterly, Muzzle, and Southern Humanities Review, among others. She is a PhD student at the University of South Dakota.


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