the animal question

I can scratch animals on their chin.
“All About Me” poster outside an Ann Arbor kindergarten classroom

it just occurred to me: to wonder about what you’re thinking      as our bodies move solid and soft together, as you push aside my wool, flannel;  cotton around my ankles. I think instead sometimes of evolution: cell division, the natural selections, other coital interminglings. Conjugal seconds and hours; millions of years’ nuclear fission. Cells splitting into new coiled strands, mysterious data like a lab chart, a seed catalog.


Yesterday she delivered baby goats. One kid had its leg tucked up alongside its body.  They are supposed to dive out, though: the long journey from liquid to air.   The amniotic sac bulged. Then there was fluid. A glistening alien puddle wetted the straw.   The glove went up to her elbow. She reached inside to move the leg.   Tom, his ears covered with a blue fleece headband, coached: Which side is it on  and can you feel the nose?     Let me try again okay sweetheart she murmured, intent. (It was like the night before.)  I clenched and throbbed in mammal empathy. Noises almost familiar.


We debate what bodies want, and how is that instinct/how we inscribe desires onto the bodies we have, describe: furry, uncertain.   Mammals hold each other at times like this, licking fur and eyelids.   When we awake to the radio, when I rub the side of your thigh at a party, I ask myself (ask you/ask all of us) what does it mean to be a mammal: who will scratch us on the chin?


Kristen is a writer and domestic violence advocate living in Gainesville, Florida. Her first book, Domestication Handbook, will be published later this year by Rogue Factorial. She blogs about the girl, the monster, the pig, and the house at