I’ve been a fan of Carol Guess’s prose poetry for years. I love its dark whimsy, its feminist awareness, and—most of all—its music. Guess’s work pulses with a rhythm that reminds readers that prose poetry need not be prosaic. It uses a lyrical kind of logic, allowing language itself to guide the trajectory of each piece while narrative blooms along the way.
The following piece, “Girl in Box,” is more akin to fiction, yet it retains those qualities of Guess’s prose poetry that I love. It blurs the line between poetry and prose by using prose not as merely a passive vehicle for a story, but as an active agent driving the story forward through lyricism. This story infuses the fabulist mode with wordplay, associative leaping, and musical echoes. For example, Guess’s repeated use of the vocative O to address the cuff underscores the story’s turn by amping up the lyricism and even mimicking the cuff itself: “O other cuff clattered, clunked.” Like the cuff, the speaker’s O encloses the girl, but to no avail. With the final turn, protection becomes imprisonment, care becomes violence, the girl’s keeper becomes her jailer. This movement reveals how thin the line between protection and entrapment can be for those doubly bound in the box called “girl.”