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Anne Boleyn, Second Wife of Henry VIII

The Queen’s Failure

 

The Stillbirth

07.27.1534

(After “The Witches Chant” in Macbeth by William Shakespeare)

 

Sir Thomas Boleyn:

Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.

 

King Henry VIII:

Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.

 

Queen Anne:

‘tis time! ‘tis time!

 

 Sir Thomas Boleyn:

Quick to your chambers to produce an heir.

If a son is born, we will not fear

loss of face, titles, the King’s good cheer.

 

King Henry VIII:

Moonless pleasure, double regret

A worthless girl, a dead boy beget.

 

Sir Thomas Boleyn:

Anne, my child, we have much to lose

You must do your part to produce an heir.

 

Queen Anne:

Body breaking burning face

angels bring my boy with haste.

 

King Henry VIII:

Moonless pleasure, triple regret

A worthless girl, two boys dead beget.

 

Queen Anne:

Look in the mirror my heart does break.

The King I yearned for now me regrets.

 

 

Anne’s Prayer

08.12.1535

 

failing,

fallow land, my

womb – barain, aridez

devoid of fruit, incapable

matriz.

                        

fecund

fertillus seeds,

produce a spawning womb,

sustain abundant growth, a crop,

a son

 

 

Henry Hears Rumors of Anne’s Infidelity

12.25.1535

(From a line by William Shakespeare)

  

When my love swears that she is made of truth,

I do believe her, though I know she lies.

She caresses my thighs. Her whispers soothes

my self-regard. My love swears she is true.

She has borne no sons: what can I deduce?

My craze was but an act of sortilege.

When my love swears that she is made of truth,

I do believe her. Yet, I know she lies. 

 

 

Caught in Revelry by the King after the Death of Katherine of Aragon

01.08.1536

(From a line translated from the Anglo-Saxon by David Constantine)

  

I dance like flames, I lend the winds.

Glorious shapes, the fire in me

is aglow. My limbs, they fly and bend.

I dance like flames. I lend the winds.

Quit staring, Henry! I did not sin.

The Lady’s death – we’re truly free!

I dance like flames. I lend the winds.

Glorious shapes, our son in me.

 

 

The Miscarriage

01.29.1536

(From a line translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Ciara Carson)

 

crackle fire winter’s dawn fire hearth crackle crackle crack the egg lady madge snap snap logs, back, crackle crackle heat crack the egg, crack the egg, the pain, the back, crackle crackle heat erase the chill, crack crack, stuff my quaint, bind my legs lady jane, bind my legs tight tight stop the crackle stop the heat hold my legs, crack the back, the pain, the egg, no! no! no! expel the crack, the bones, the nails, the chinks, crack crack crackle no! no! no! crack crack add the logs, the rags, chunks of bone crack crack  crackle  heat cracks brows burn crackle crackle  teeth crack the eggs crack the pain, the heat…

soaked in sorrow, fearful at the sight,

for all that, I lay there a long while

all that remains is this bloody ash.

 

 

Notes:

01 1st Witch:

    Thrice the brinded cat hath mew’d.


2nd Witch:

   Thrice and once, the hedge-pig whin’d.


3rd Witch

   Harpier cries:—’tis time! ’tis time!

   (From “The Witches Chant” in Macbeth by William Shakespeare)

 

03 When my love swears that she is made of truth,

     I do believe her, though I know she lies.

    (From “Sonnet 138” by William Shakespeare)

 

04 I dance like flames, I lend the winds.

     Glorious shapes, the fire in me

    (From Riddle 30 “I Dance Like Flames” as translated

    from the Anglo-Saxon by David Constantine)

 

05 I was soaked in sorrow, fearful at the sight

    For all that, I lay there a long while.

    (From “The Vision of the Cross” as translated from the Anglo-Saxon by Ciara Carson)

 

Alice Catherine Jennings is a student in the MFA Program in Writing at Spalding University.  Her poetry has appeared in In Other Words: Merida and is forthcoming in the Hawai’i Review, Penumbra, and the Louisville Review.  She is the recipient of the U.S. Poets in Mexico 2013 MFA Candidate Award.  Alice divides her time between Oaxaca, Mexico and Marfa/Austin, Texas.

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LOVESONG OF THE BARREN WOMAN

1. Shipwreck

                Water, water everywhere
                              and not a drop to drink

I sing of PCOS—
That pirate disease, launching its scourge on my red woman’s deck,
goading my dreams as they walk the plank
with a splash and a plop.

I thirst. For round belly flesh.
For a living inner-tube to keep me afloat.

Any sea creature caught in my gut would tread oil spills
and the plastic necklaces of aluminum cans,
finding no safe spot to anchor.

I met a woman who had her tubes cut at twenty-two
and has never once regretted the decision.

I could be her twisted sister. Her mirror-image. Her tocaya.
In her I see reflected my own incision, ectopic wounds.
Gloved oars slice through k-y jellies;
they navigate my shame.

Clomid pops like fish eggs on my blackened tongue,
Eucharist to the bleeding woman.
One pill two pills red pill blue pill.

Hapless fisher kings in shining yellow slickers fishhook
my ovaries, but the fish swim away, and the wires snap back empty.
There will be no dinner tonight though the villagers are starving.

Sponge pads soaking in saltwater choke the angelfish.
Mussels suction my gut.
I’ve beads tonguing my cauliflower flesh,
strings lovely and strange;

If only I could peel them off, these sticky pearls
aborted before they’ve grown protective shells,

I’d rise, I’d rise in sprays.

2. Looking Glass

                   The image in the mirror appears whole
                             though I swear I am a fragment.

Columnar self,
I am my own grotesque other body.

I fell asleep inside my pod and woke to red,
where oceans are dry as salt flats, where red means lost
and lost means dead.

When the blood comes, yet again, unwanted,
hold high the striped umbrella, and sing
rain, rain go away to passersby, to gawkers
who have never seen a bloated caterpillar
sway in quite that way.

Tell them I am growing once more and soon
will overgrow this crumbling hull.
I’ve sublet my stomach to the construction workers:

Screw the landlady.
Who owns this house?
I am a troubadour.

My plump toes are spreading,
wrapping the branches of my mildewed limbs,
and the round tips of my fingers are sprawling wildly
for I have been eating too many pitahayas.

Now the juicy seeds have planted inside my nectar bosom,
and my roots are tearing through the chalky red walls
that hold this broken house-heart up,
creating cracks wide enough
for even the snails to crawl through.

Fissures of the soul? There is not space
enough nor time to fill me—yet
I am full to flowing and overripe.

3. Shell Shock

           Mother-woman, other woman, in my bed,
                      She’s the woman, fertile woman, hollowing my head.

Caroline has a baby girl.
She’s beautiful, intelligent,
stacks Thomas the Train building blocks in perfect rows.

Our pieces wedge together and converge
in that brown haired baby with seashell eyes,
she’s yours, not mine.

I am nineteen again and barefoot on the cold pavement porch,
gray USC sweatshirt to my knees, poised beneath
the veined trellis that raises its arms in wordless salute
to a crisp desert sky of stars hung like brittle ornaments,
cordless phone pressed to my ear.

I cannot understand his hesitation—
You strayed. I forgive you. I say. We can work it out.

Across the street red and green chaser lights blink
Merry Christmas, Merry Christmas.
But the sound rattles my ear canal, ricochets in a tunnel,
aerial gunnery, practice in the nearby Chocolate Mountains:

You don’t understand. He tells me.
Caroline is pregnant with my child.

The phone through the earth hums softly away in a manger.
His voice, a lone coyote’s distant howl,
stabs my moon, my heart, my breasts, my womb—
bits of body stubbornly casing spirits, dead weight, crushed ice.
And all around flashes
Merry Christmas, Merry
Christmas.

 

NINE MONTHS PREGNANT AFTER FIVE YEARS INFERTILITY & ONE (BEAUTIFUL) ADOPTION

Not so different: excitement the same.
Planning the same, packing, the same.

I’d long thought myself a pitted plum rotting,
but here I’m rooting, shooting, spiraling, curling,
and still, the same.

As usual, August swamps and spits down my face,
my breasts;  it gathers under my folds and pits
and crevices like jellies within their pots
and balms the backs of my knees.

Reading a book is the same. This one’s Erica Jong’s
Fear of Flying. I’d never read it, but pleasure
unfolds, mind unwraps, unspools even pops
and pulls the same. Tentacles uncoil the same.

Plums taste the same. I just finished a deeply
purple one, spotted and bruised,
pit perfectly intact. God it was sweet.

But even sweetness, even overflowing
and hearty and arching and malting and moon
heavy and cow eyed and summer sprawled,
sweetness is the same.

My son lies napping in his bed.
My daughter sidewinds my gut.
Dreaming, both.

But hopes. Fears. Loves.
Aches like soft loaves of bread. Weight
of worlds and oceans and maternity and eternity
in my blood. And my blood. And my blood.
The same.

                 first appeared in Poetry Quarterly

 

 

Jennifer Givhan was a PEN Emerging Voices Fellow, a St. Lawrence Book Award finalist, and a Vernice Quebodeaux Pathways Prize finalist for her poetry collection Red Sun Mother. Nominated for the 2012 Best of the Net, Givhan’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in over forty journals, including Prairie Schooner, Contrary, Rattle, The Los Angeles Review, Fickle Muses, and Crab Creek Review. She attends the MFA program at Warren Wilson College, teaches composition at The University of New Mexico, and is at work on her second novel and poetry collection. You can visit Givhan online at www.jennifergivhan.com.

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Outgrown

The pet store owner hates me.
The bags of skittering crickets
I buy can’t make up for the sales
he’s lost. Releasing swarms of doubt
among his customers, I tell them
how big those babies behind glass will get.
The sulcata tortoise that fits
in your child’s mouth will be 200 pounds.
The frog sitting on your thumb eats fruit flies
now, rats later. In a year, that iguana will need
his own room. Caiman is just another
word for Crocodile. Is it animal welfare
that makes me speak up, or my own
fear of a life that will outgrow
the space I leave for it? When my eight-months
pregnant friend says how much she wants
this baby out, I don’t tell her
about my embryo, just another word
for a baby so small I didn’t know I’d brought
it home, how my deformed
uterus ran out of room at eight weeks,
and the tissue meant to cushion crushed.

My Boyfriend’s Miscarriage

On a Harley Davidson notepad, I draw
a normal uterus: pear-shaped, adorned on either side

with ovaries, and then mine, upside down, toppled
by a mass of eggs on one side, nothing

on the other, fallopian tubes
a gnarled ball of yarn.

The perspective father of my children
still isn’t convinced: Wouldn’t a child

 from your own body mean
more? Wouldn’t that be worth

the risk? I find him sobbing, face down
on our mattress, clutching

a Christmas photo—his niece’s bald head
covered by a Santa hat, smiling despite

chemo and swollen cheeks—he flinches
when I brush against his hip where a drill

pierced his femur, drawing rich red marrow
from the hollows of his pelvis to patch holes

in a child’s blood, the only relative whose genes
matched. Nine months later, the cells he donated

have died inside her. I was wrong
he says. That’s the last part of us
I want to lose.

“Inappropriate” Lactation After a Miscarriage

To not “take possession of.”
To not “set apart for a particular use.”
Not “fitting, suitable, apt.”
Not milk, but milky,
meant for a baby never
truly possessed.
Not white, but bluish gray,
insinuating itself into a bra’s
lace when someone else’s baby cries.

Set apart but not useful,
twin tumors the heart beats against–
ignore the pressure, refuse to release it,
and it will go away.
“Express” it and it will never
stop. Soothe with frozen
cabbage leaves, brittle green reminders
that babies are not found
where they were thought to be.
The only cure: to become
fertile again. What is natural
can also be wrong.

Heat

Inside a freshly laid egg, a gecko
begins female, but temperature
changes everything. Incubators
set at 75 guard oviducts, but
crank to 80 and androgen pools
in hemipenal pores. A simple formula, unless
a thermostat malfunctions and temps
reach 90, for an egg just shy of omelet
hatches “hot female.” Sterile, chunky,
aggressive, they savage males who try
to mount them, dance a slithering samba
when “normal” females approach.

Off her meds because of me, my mother
hid in closets and crawl spaces
in June, heat stroke less threatening
than life. Were those prenatal summer
months the reason the dress shop calls
my waist a “size other?” Did it make
me throw a desk at the teacher who said
I’d never find a husband peering
through a microscope? Is that
why I sizzle in a woman’s
arms like butter
beneath scrambled egg?

Laura Thompson earned her MFA in Poetry from Vermont College of the Fine Arts and is currently enrolled in the PhD program in English and Comparative Literature, with a certificate in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, at the University of Cincinnati. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Tributary, The Rectangle, and Tiger’s Eye. She is also a part-time English and Creative Writing instructor and serves on the editorial staff at the Cincinnati Review.

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Kathy  Leonard says, “When I photograph, I do not consciously search out particular types of images, but I find that there is a surprising similarity in many of my photographs.  There is dark and light, great contrast, or “chiaroscuro” as the Italians call it.  I find this juxtaposition of light and shadow very appealing in black and white photography, especially when it serves to highlight the angles or curves of some object. These are the elements that drew me to photograph the wooden cradle. The natural light from the window cast dramatic shadows on the hand-carved cradle and I knew that the resulting image would be stark, simple, and beautiful.”

Kathy Leonard is a professor at Iowa State University.  She studied photography at the University of California, Davis, and at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she received a degree in Fine Arts with specialty in photography. Her photographs have been published in numerous magazines, websites, online journals, and in textbooks and have been exhibited in various venues in California, Nevada, and Iowa.

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Fiction by Don Kunz

Wendy awoke in the master bedroom of the restored Victorian on Prospect Street.  She lay listening to the lovebirds shredding newspaper in their cage next to the bay window and her husband making breakfast in their downstairs kitchen.  She stared at the ceiling.  The new light of an August morning had streamed through the stained glass to cover the cracked plaster with sky-blue and blood-red streaks resembling a child’s finger painting.  She thought of a shiny white egg the size of a marble.  She thought of nesting.  At almost five months she was definitely showing.  Beneath her flannel nightgown Wendy’s stomach was no longer flat and hard from years of abdominal crunches and five-mile runs along Blackstone Boulevard on the east side of Providence.  She heard Bill breaking eggs into a ceramic bowl, whisking them with a fork, pouring them spattering into the cast iron skillet.  The skillet had belonged to Wendy’s mother who had died of colon cancer on Valentine’s Day.  She remembered her mother’s distended belly rising beneath the sheet of her hospital deathbed and imagined she would look like that herself before she delivered in December.  Wendy found it disturbing that on the surface life and death should look so much alike.  She wished her mother had lived long enough to share the mysteries of pregnancy and childbirth with her, especially because this would be a Christmas baby, a miracle.  Then, Wendy smelled freshly brewed coffee and felt the familiar first wave of morning sickness.

Bill dropped four slices of whole wheat into the toaster then turned back to stir their eggs in the skillet.  He sang the chorus of a top-forty tune he remembered from his younger years, “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy hang on.”  After a miscarriage during the second month of Wendy’s first pregnancy, this had become their theme song.  Bill could almost picture this second fetus adrift in amniotic fluid trying to find a grip on the uterine wall with its newly formed hands.  If Sloopy could just hang on, then, what?  Bill would be a father for the first time at age sixty-one.  At a time when his colleagues would be looking forward to retirement, Bill would be heating formula and planning his schedule around day care.  He was still not certain how to feel about that.  But he was trying to stay positive.  From the beginning of fertility treatments he had told himself that becoming a father would make him young again.  Bill wanted to believe that at seventy-five he would have a dark tan, ropy muscles, and lungs like a Sherpa.  He tried to imagine playing one-on-one basketball in the driveway, making a fade away jump shot against his taller teenage son while his retired colleagues across town shuffled about in walkers, dithering over long-term care policies and bingo schedules in nursing homes.  Bill turned into the hallway, carrying two full plates toward the dining room.  He paused at the foot of the stairs.  “Breakfast,” he hollered.  “Eggs and toast.  Breakfast for Wendy and Sloopy.”  No answer.  From the bathroom at the top of the stairs came the sound of his wife retching.  Bill walked slowly into the dining room and set the plates on the table.

Wendy rested her forehead on the forward edge of the white porcelain toilet bowl, reached up and flushed.  “Coming,” she hollered.  “I’m coming, for Christ’s sake!”  She heaved herself up and reached for the Aquafresh on the pedestal sink.  The bristles on her toothbrush were splayed out like the legs of an old dog trying to stay upright.  Her voice tumbled down the stairs toward Bill.  “I’m not too sure about Sloopy.  I may have barfed him up.  I couldn’t bear to look.”

Christmas baby or not she thought as she brushed her teeth, no one could call her the Virgin Wendy anymore; that’s for sure.  At work, Joe Early had christened her with that nickname when they were dating, because she was holding out on him.  She glanced into the speckled mirror over the sink.  She was foaming at the mouth.  Rabid bitch she thought.  She remembered snapping and growling at poor Joe, formerly her would-be lover, now barely a colleague.  Joe Early, one of four senior partners at Robinson, Bender, Early & Touché, Attorneys at Law had spent four months after his third divorce trying to get into her pants.  Back then she was in her fifth year at the firm and had wondered if giving into sexual intimacy would be a quid pro quo for making partner in the firm.  So Wendy, who hadn’t been a virgin since she was seventeen, decided to keep their relationship platonic as a test.  A week after the vote which made her a partner and head of the firm’s workman’s compensation division, Wendy dumped Joe when he tried to grope her in the small kitchen off the second-floor conference room at the end of the hall.  Mooning about with unrequited love was unprofessional but, nevertheless, flattering; feeling her up at work was not.

Wendy took a gulp of tap water, grimaced at the taste of chlorine, thought again about buying a filter for the tap, and rinsed her mouth but did not swallow.  She recalled she had not been able to read anything but embarrassment in Joe’s face, like when he had received a Victoria’s Secret Catalog at work.  She was hoping for disappointment.  She would have preferred epic heart break.  But Joe just blushed briefly.  Then he reached past her, poured himself a coffee (no sugar) and turned away.  She had been tempted to ask if he knew anything about sexual harassment statutes but decided not to rub it in.  Three weeks later Wendy had tried to imagine what Joe would think about her having intercourse with an economist she had met through a dating service.  At first it had amazed her, but later Wendy figured she was overdue.  At age thirty-seven having committed all her energy to marathon training and a seventy-hour workweek at the law firm, she decided it was time to stop acting like a cloistered nun.  What could she have told Joe if he had asked why him and not me, especially when Bill was almost twenty years older than either of them?  Bill just smelled right?  Wendy believed in the science of pheromones.  Now she was pregnant at forty, trying to believe in miracles.

Bill ascended the stairs wearing a red T-shirt, khaki slacks, and a denim apron that read, “If you laid all the economists end to end, they still couldn’t reach a conclusion.”  He shoved both hands into his front pockets beneath the apron and stared at Wendy in the bathroom mirror, admiring her brown eyes, perfectly oval face, and short auburn curls.  Bill watched Wendy wipe her mouth with the green guest towel.  “You were just kidding about Sloopy, right?  Because I’ve got his breakfast ready.  He needs to eat to hang on.”

Wendy brushed her fingertips across the dark circles beneath her eyes as if to erase them.  She wondered when she would see the glow that younger women seemed to get when they were pregnant.  Since marrying Bill three years earlier, she had wondered if starting a family this late was an unrealistic prospect.  Now she tried to push doubt aside.  She told herself it was like hitting the wall at mile eighteen in a marathon when the body had used up all its glycogen; if she kept pushing, she could do it.  And so could her husband she thought; he was a tough, old bird who looked and acted younger than his years.   Bill’s reflection appeared beside hers in the mirror, a square chiseled face with scar tissue around the eyes.  Wendy spoke to his image.  “I’ve got to believe this one’s got a grip.  This baby’s a keeper.”

Bill bowed his head, rested his chin lightly on Wendy’s shoulder, and wrapped his arms around her.  He wanted to hold on more tightly but feared he might break something.  “It had better be.  I don’t think there are many more where he came from.”

Wendy rotated inside the circle of Bill’s arms and gave him a peck on the cheek.  “Thanks for fixing breakfast.”  She wrinkled her nose.  “Oh, God.  I think I’m going to be sick again.”  She pushed Bill away, put both hands on her knees, and leaned over the toilet.  Her hands turned into fists as if she could fight off the nausea.  “Morning sickness is supposed to go away by the third month.  It’s too late for this.”

“It’s probably the damned eggs,” Bill said.  I should have fixed oatmeal.”

Wendy straightened up.  “Yeah, probably just the eggs.  But I ought to be able to keep something as simple as an egg down.  Eggs are supposed to be good for you.”

“Why don’t you save a step, leave the toilet seat up just in case?”

“Don’t be a damned pessimist!” she snapped.   “I refuse to be sick any more.  I’m going to take a seat at the table, and I’m going to finish everything you put on my plate.”

Wendy waited for Bill to get out of her way.  But he reached out and placed both hands on her belly.  His knuckles were heavy, thick, and scarred.  Sloopy wasn’t kicking.  Wendy reached up to brush toast crumbs from Bill’s lips.

 

That evening Wendy and Bill lay in bed with their heads propped up on pillows and watched a rerun of “The Best of Johnny Carson.”  Wendy was nibbling on soda crackers to settle her stomach.  Beneath the sheet Bill’s feet framed the screen on the twenty-one inch Sony at the foot of the bed.  When he forced his toes together, Johnny disappeared; when he let them flop to the side, Johnny reappeared.  Now Johnny was wearing a black velvet turban and holding an envelope to his forehead; he was playing the Great Carnac, solver of riddles.  The routine reminded Bill of “Jeopardy,” but every answer was a joke.  Johnny closed his eyes, furrowed his brow, and let the suspense build.  “Sis boom bah,” he proclaimed.  Then Johnny tore the end from the envelope and blew into it.  The envelope bellied out, Johnny extracted a piece of paper, unfolded it and read:  “What is the sound of a sheep exploding?”

Seated on the sofa to Johnny’s right, Ed McMahon burst into gales of hearty laughter.  “Yes, oh Great Carnac, The Magnificent.”

Bill brought his toes together and erased Johnny.  “Looks like we didn’t miss much the first time around.  If this is the best of Carson, I wouldn’t want to see the worst.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Wendy said, “maybe that would be more entertaining.  You know, less scripted, more spontaneous.”

Bill moved his feet apart.  Johnny popped up on the screen again.  Bill wondered if that was true about being funny.  He thought it was true about sex.  Now that sex was a regular part of his life, he was relieved and grateful.  But it seemed less exciting.  He remembered the thrill of picking up chicks in bars and bookstores down city when he was fresh out of Providence College with a graduate degree in economics.  It had helped that he looked like a body builder, that he had trained in gyms from the age of thirteen, and that at seventeen he had become New England Welter-Weight Champion in the Golden Gloves.  Whenever some flighty woman in a bar reached up to trace the scar tissue beneath his left eye or paused to focus on his twice broken nose or asked about the callous on his knuckles, Bill knew he had her.  If he wanted her.  But after hitting forty-five, suddenly all the knockout women close to his age were taken.  On weekends he saw them in minivans driving their kids to the Roger Williams’ Park Zoo or swimming lessons at the Barrington Y.  By the time he was fifty, Bill had gotten used to going a year or more without getting lucky.  Eventually, he found the women in bars divided into two types:  Young and giggly or old and desperate.  They were either caught up in trivial details of undergraduate work or seething with anger about divorces.  They all were obsessive about gaining weight.  Inviting them out to dinner was like asking them to step into the ring.

In hindsight Bill knew his sexual exploits had been a crazy game, the worst-case scenario being AIDS.  Meanwhile the sexual climate had changed.  Pretending to love and to be loved by a stranger no longer seemed possible.  When he had stopped scoring regularly, he told himself that he was being prudent.  The newspapers were filled with cautionary tales:  Sexual harassment law suits filed against CEOs; college administrations issuing strict guidelines governing relations between students and faculty; a picture in the Providence Journal of the Rhode Island Supreme Court’s Chief Justice zipping up his pants while emerging from a liaison with a prostitute at Johnston motel.  At First Federal Trust, where Bill worked, sexual harassment training became mandatory, and officiously scripted dialog replaced flirting.   Being a lapsed New England Catholic, Bill diagnosed these symptoms as resurgent Puritanism.  Once again the culture seemed determined to take the fun out of sex by handing out scarlet “A’s, but this time around it would be to men for exploiting women in a rigged economy.  So, at fifty five, William Williams, now Chief Economist at First Federal with offices throughout New England, began to talk openly of looking for a wife and perhaps starting a family.  Bill’s male colleagues, who had been entertained by his earlier sexual exploits, were amused by his transformation.  Privately they began to refer to him as Bill Squared.

Bill found a wife two years later through a dating service called ForPlay, which operated out of a former fitness club and karate studio on Broadway.  It catered to athletes, arranging dates around workouts and sports—skiing, tennis, swimming, even swing dancing. This appealed to Bill.  As a boxer, he had done a lot of roadwork and weight training.  To stay youthful looking he had continued working out long after he stopped fighting.  So, when Bill read a feature article on dating services in the Providence Sunday Journal, he canceled his health club membership at Gold’s Gym on Bald Hill Road and signed up with ForPlay.  He liked their policy of no embarrassing interviews (“Well, after graduate school at NYU…”) or videotapes (“Hi—SMILE—my name is_______”) or newspaper ads (“SDWM loves walking on the beach, candlelit dinners, and stimulating conversation”).  ForPlay was just a chance to find a healthy mate.  In that way Bill met Wendy on a fun run, scrambling along Blackstone Boulevard on a Sunday afternoon in late April, passing five younger men to catch up to her because he liked what he saw from behind.  He was pleased she was a marathoner.  He wanted a woman who could go the distance.  They began to work out together—five mile runs and resistance training.  By the following January they were married.  She was thirty-seven and wanted children before it was too late.  Bill was fifty-eight and wanted to give Wendy anything that would make her love him.  Now at sixty-one he was trying to become a father.  And now Johnny Carson was razzing Doc Severson about his sportscoat looking like something a pimp would wear to an Easter egg hunt.  Johnny was saying “Where’s the hat with the Peacock feather?  What’s up, Doc?”  Ed McMahon was hysterical.  He cackled and hooted.  His head snapped back, then slumped between his knees as he fought to control his joy.  Finally Ed straightened up, wiped tears from his eyes and cut to a commercial for Tidy Bowl.

“Uh oh,” Wendy said.  “I’m bleeding.”

 

Wendy closed her eyes, leaned back in the passenger seat of their Saab station wagon, and pressed a supersize maxipad between her legs.  Bill drove through rain slick streets and swiped at the foggy windshield with a white towel.  The defroster had died several Sundays ago on their way to the United Church of Christ on Angell, and, although the car was still under warranty, they hadn’t found the time to get it to the dealer’s in Pawtucket yet.  Down Prospect and up Waterman there was almost no traffic.  But as Bill passed Hope, he realized that he was going the wrong direction from habit.  Accustomed to driving Wendy to the Ob-Gyn suite in Wayland Square for fertility treatments and monthly checkups, he had driven her away from the hospital not toward it.   There was no traffic, so he ran the light at Brooke, doubling back toward Hope, then Wickendon and the Point Street Bridge.  He checked his rearview mirror and listened for sirens.  The night was very dark.  Rain sluiced in the gutters and swept twigs and scraps of newspaper into storm sewers.  A Basset Hound frowned wrinkles as it lapped water from a puddle on the broken sidewalk under a streetlight.  The headlights cast small pale yellow pools on the pavement.  They reminded Bill of broken egg yolks.  As he passed beneath the freeway and approached Dudley, he could see the sickly green mercury vapor lights that marked the entrance to Women and Infant’s Hospital.  They made Bill want to vomit.  Hang on, Sloopy, Bill thought.  Hang on. 

The car felt like a cinderblock on wheels; he wondered if he was losing the steering as well as the defroster; Bill wrestled it into the space in front of the glass double doors marked EMERGENCY ROOM.  The asphalt was crosshatched with yellow lines, and a red neon sign read AMBULANCE ONLY.  Bill put on his hazard lights and leaned on the horn until he could see a blur of white coats and stethoscopes appear through the wavy path of the windshield wipers.  The Emergency Room doors burst open, and the water cascading off the roof broke all around them as EMTs pulled Wendy from the car, put her on a gurney, and wheeled her into the hospital with a blood pressure cuff already inflating around her left arm and Wendy holding up the blood soaked pad with her right hand and an EMT pressing Wendy’s hand back down against her crotch and hollering for her to just keep the pressure right on it.

Bill lowered his head to the steering wheel.  The windshield wipers thumped, thumped, thumped like an endless succession of barred doors closing.  Even with his eyes shut the sign’s red glow colored his thoughts.  Without this baby to keep him young, how could Wendy still love him?  He thought, who am I kidding?   I must have been dreaming!  For the first time he could picture himself alone, toothless, hooked up to an IV drip, lying in a nursing home like the one where he had visited his father when the old man was dying of heart trouble.  And like a split screen in a movie, he could see Wendy, seemingly ageless, standing in a navy blue power suit offering her summation to a jury.  This image dissolved into one of their two lovebirds, Anna and Fritz, stretching their clipped wings and singing to the mirror in their cage.  Tonight he knew Anna was sitting on the small white marble that he and Wendy had substituted for the real egg, which they had destroyed after reading about the mortality rate of lovebird chicks in captivity.  Bill imagined Anna and Fritz together now wrapped in silence and darkness by the night curtain.  Then his throat tightened and his eyes watered.  Bill shifted into reverse, backed out of the restricted area, and hunted for a place where he could park the Saab.

 

The voice came from behind the brilliant white light above her.  “Rate your pain on a scale of one to ten, ten being the worst pain you ever had.”

Wendy lay swaddled in a gray blanket on the sterile examination table inside the emergency-room cubicle.  Her feet were in stirrups, and a doctor was probing between her legs.  “Oh.  Two.  I think.  You know.  Like cramps, maybe.”

“When did the bleeding start?

“About twenty minutes ago.  We were watching Johnny Carson.  I felt this wetness between my legs.”

“Did you do anything strenuous today?  Lift anything?”

“No, I’ve cut way back on my running.  I stretched a little.  My husband and I had sex this morning after breakfast.  You think that could trigger it?”

“Did intercourse hurt?”

“No.  To tell you the truth, it felt terrific.  Better than usual.

“Good.  Just what Mother Nature intended.  That way, you’ll probably do it again.  If sexual activity isn’t painful, and it’s not too . . .ah . . . . athletic, it can actually be beneficial up until about the eighth month.  It usually keeps the parents happy, and if they’re happy. . .”

Wendy shifted on the examination table, recoiling from the pressure of the cold instruments against her pelvis.  The sanitary paper crinkled under her.  Her voice was suddenly husky.  “I lost the first one.  I don’t want to lose this one.”  She cleared her throat.  “I gave up biking.  And I’ll give up running altogether if I have to.  Just tell me.  I mean, I’ve cut back to six miles a week anyway, you know, like three two-mile runs?  And I swim laps when I can get to the pool at the Y.”

The doctor slipped Wendy’s feet from the stirrups and set them down gently.  She pulled Wendy’s green hospital Johnny down.  “It’s better to stay active if you can.  But walk, don’t run.  Swimming’s okay.  Most women know not to overdo.  However, the bleeding is a concern.  It isn’t just spotting.  On the other hand, it’s just about stopped now.”  The doctor turned off the examination light, and pulled her mask off.  “Some bleeding during early stage pregnancy is not uncommon.  But you’re, what now?  Four months?  Five?”

Wendy tried to blink away the dark spot in her eyes left by the examination light.  She could barely read the physician’s face, just making out a woman of about fifty in green scrubs, short blond hair protruding beneath a paper cap, no makeup.  “Almost five.”

The doctor nodded.  “Yeah, okay.  So, I want an ultrasound.  It won’t hurt anything, and it might tell us something.”

Wendy turned her head to follow the doctor as she edged around the foot of the examination table and held out a hand to help her sit up.  Wendy felt lightheaded.  “I’m not sure I want to know.”

Abruptly, the doctor crossed the cubicle, picked up a second blanket, returned, and draped it around Wendy’s shoulders.  “It’s always better to know.  That’s the only way we can help you have a healthy baby.  I think you’d be surprised how much the medical profession does know.  We’ve got so many options now.”  She glanced again at Wendy’s chart.  “Anyway, I’ll make sure this episode gets into your file so you can go over it with your regular Ob-Gyn, who is Dr. . . . ah . . .oh, looks you’ve got a whole team working on this.  A year and a half of fertility treatments with Wayland Gynecological Associates.  You’re in good hands.  Those guys have childbearing down to a science.”

“We’ll I’m forty, and I guess science got me this far.  But it seems more like a miracle.”

The doctor took a pen from her breast pocket and began writing on the patient chart.  She glanced up.  “Yeah.  We see those, too.  Now let’s get that ultrasound.”

 

Bill punched in the security code, shutting off the alarm system in their Prospect Street home.  He glanced at the darkened stairwell leading up to the master bedroom as he helped Wendy out of her wet raincoat.  He hung it up with his own double-breasted trench coat in the hall closet and shut the door.  He threw the keys down on the dining room table, pulled out an end chair, and collapsed into it.  “I’m beat,” he sighed.  “And I wasn’t even the one doing the bleeding.”

Wendy slipped up behind Bill and placed a large envelope on the table.  Then she bent and put her arms around his neck.  She kissed him on the ear.  “Oh, I don’t know.  You looked pretty white in the face.”  She straightened up and massaged his neck with both hands, digging her fingers in deep like a boxer’s corner man loosening him up for the next round.  His muscles were rigid.  Wendy sighed.  “You know what?”

Bill tipped his head back against Wendy’s belly, hoping to feel movement.  Instead he felt the rising and falling of her breath on the top of his head.  He wondered if he was getting a little bald.  The need to feel his son had become an ache too profound to be massaged away.  It made him weak.  He thought, give me a poke, kid.  Give me a kick in the head.  Your old man is out here waiting.  Finally, Bill grunted, “No, what?”

“I’m starving.  I wish Johnny Rockets up on Thayer Street were open.  I’d get a deluxe hamburger with lots of onions, French fries, a frosty chocolate malt.”

“Yeah, but it’s closed.  It’s, what?”  Bill looked at his Swiss Army watch; there was a Red Cross embossed beneath the numbers.  “A little after midnight.  Nothing’s open.  Nothing but emergency rooms and bars.”  He turned and looked up at Wendy.  “Is this an emergency?  I could pop some corn.”

“That sounds good.  Pop the good stuff, the Orville whatshisface.  The kind where all the kernels pop.  You know, no old maids.”

Bill heaved himself up and took Wendy’s hands in his.  He pushed fatigue aside, forcing himself to speak.  “There are always going to be a few lonely old maids,” he said.  “But you’re not going to be one of them.  I won’t let that happen.”

Wendy stood on her tiptoes and pressed her forehead against Bill’s.  She thought of a lovebird staring at its own reflection in a mirror.  “I know,” she said.  “But it’s not entirely up to you.  I don’t care how tough you are.  That’s too big a responsibility for anybody.  We can’t control everything.”

“So what do we do?”

“We hope.”

“What if we lose this one, too?”

“Cross that bridge when we come to it.”

“It might be too late for me.”

“It might be too late for both of us.”

“So what do we do?”

“What we can.  Let’s look at it one more time.”

Bill let go of Wendy, then, turned toward the table, and slid the grainy black and white image from its beige envelope as if he were the one giving birth.  There it was on the table.  Together they stood, heads bowed, staring at the 8 1/2 X 11 Polaroid enlargement of the ultrasound monitor.  It seemed like a miracle, this projecting sound through flesh and blood to create a shadowy image of more flesh and blood.  There was Sloopy, one hand clutching his umbilical cord, the other raised as if waving to his parents.  Bill’s voice was a hoarse whisper.  “I don’t know if he’s waving hello or goodbye.”

Wendy ran an index finger over the image of her son’s upraised hand, then turned to Bill.  “Damnit, don’t!  Don’t you dare do that to us!”  She paused, fighting for control.  “We’ve got to believe it’s hello.  If you love me, give me that much.”

Bill placed his hand on top of hers.  “Jesus, Wendy, it’s all about probabilities!  When I look at the numbers, it’s hard not to be pessimistic.”  He squeezed his wife’s hand.  “I do love you.  I love you no matter what.”

Wendy swallowed.  Her voice was hoarse.  “This is family were talking about now, not some abstraction.  This is as personal as it can get.  Both of us have got to believe we’re going to be parents.  Both, okay?  All I’ve seen of our son is this crummy looking Polaroid, and I already love him more than I’ve ever loved anything.”

Bill raised Wendy’s fist, unclenched it, and kissed the palm.  “Me, too.  I think we have to show him.  Let’s give him a sign.”  Slowly Bill went down on one knee at Wendy’s feet, like a boxer knocked halfway to the canvas and waiting for the count.  He began to hum “Hang on Sloopy, Sloopy, Hang on,” resting his face against her belly so that their son might hear.  Wendy joined in on the second chorus, singing the lyrics softly.  Over the sound of their voices they could hear the lovebirds in the darkness hanging over them.  Anna shredding more newspaper for the nest and Fritz pecking against the bars.

Don Kunz taught literature, creative writing, and film studies at the University of Rhode Island for 36 years.  His essays, poems, and short stories have appeared in over sixty literary journals.  Don has retired to Bend, Oregon, where he writes fiction and poetry, volunteers, studies Spanish, and is learning to play the Native American Flute.

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Artist Elizabeth Sobkiw

In your linoleum cut monoprint, “buy zolpidem uk,” I was attracted to the haunting x-ray image of the pregnant skeleton. What a concept—pregnant skeleton—an intense duality (life-death) to capture; can you talk to us about how you arrived at the image? How you chose your medium?

This piece was for an assignment in my graduate printmaking class. I have always been inspired to do images that examined the body and pregnancy. When I was working on sketches, I wanted to explore some striking themes, particularly my fears and sadness surrounding pregnancy and fertility. The woman is pregnant in a barren landscape. This barren landscape swirls about the pregnant woman creating a sickness. The woman’s skeleton is revealed like an x-ray, as opposed to a sonogram. These contrasts interest me.

Your web page opens with the wonderful quote: “Art is one thing that can go on mattering once it has stopped hurting (Elizabeth Bowen).” Can you talk about the context of this quote for you? And any artwork in your life you have found to resonate with your internal themes?

Art is a therapeutic endeavor for me. Infertility has had such a complex and profound effect on my life. Each piece I create is a reflection of what I have been through as a young girl and woman living with POF. Many pieces are a release, getting my emotions, particularly pain and confusion, out. Once a work is complete, I feel I have either climbed over a mountain or a molehill, and am able to reflect back having learned something.

Elizabeth Bowen’s quote spoke so well to me because it explains why many other artists create. Art tells a story of universal themes that can always live on, even after the artist is gone.

In your cover letter, you shared with us that since the age of 16 you were diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Failure or Primary Ovarian Insufficiency. How has that diagnosis informed your artwork?

When I began studying to become a fine arts teacher, all of my work reflected living with POF (or POI). In fact, I decided to go to graduate school as my condition was becoming the forefront of my life again. I had begun dating someone (presently my husband), attending a support group in New York City, traveling to my first POF conference, and deciding to be a part of a study at the National Institute of Health. As a teenager and undergrad, dealing POF was an afterthought, particularly tied to denial. Starting a new chapter with graduate school and meeting my husband changed everything.

A dream of mine is to have an exhibition that showcases the work of women who have been affected by infertility. As a young woman diagnosed at the age of sixteen, I have often felt alone in my diagnosis. Infertility is something few want to talk about, certainly when it affects women at a young age. My hope with having an exhibition someday will be to shed light on infertility and women’s reproductive health. One of the worst parts of having a medical condition like POF is feeling you had no control over what happened. Creating my art allows me to take some of that control back. Someday, I hope to come together with other women who have felt a similar struggle. By showcasing each other’s art, hopefully we can all gain back a sense of control over our infertility and feel united in the search for understanding.

Both the greens and blues of “Water Birth” and “Feel the Flutter” present a soothing backdrop for the image of pregnant body; can you talk to us about the variations—and again, the presence of x-ray energy with the black pelvic bone, white spine highlights. Where did each variation take you? And can you talk about how you decided which image/s to add to each variation?

The process I used to create each of these pieces is called monoprinting. It allows for a lot a room to experiment with how the ink is manipulated. The purple and green colors are a personal preference, and I created the silhouette by wiping the ink away from certain areas. Every piece begins with an initial sketch, which is then transferred onto plexi-glass. These images were inspired by the sculpture “According to Light and Gravity.” I wanted to examine the “flesh and bones” of the body, and found that the pelvic bones mimicked a butterfly shape. Inspired by an older work of mine, I stitched and inked butterflies into the corner of each piece.

Your plaster work, “According to Light and Gravity,” with its rib and spine indentations, seems to echo the butterfly theme in “Water Birth” and “Feel the Flutter.” Can you talk about the process of making this work? What do you find satisfying about working with plaster vs. linoleum cuts vs. monotypes?

Carving plaster was an extraordinary experience for me. Most art that we create from the time we are handed a crayon is all about creating an image that is flat or two-dimensional. The first time I worked with plaster, the result was not as aesthetically pleasing to say the least. I treated the surface as though it was two-dimensional. Whereas this time, I was able to understand more about the plaster and how to work with it. Taking pieces of plaster away to reveal the smooth contours and graceful lines of “According to Light and Gravity” took me so much farther from where I had began. This piece was a catalyst for many pieces that I have made since then, including the monotypes “Water Birth” and “Feel the Flutter.”

Every piece of art that I create challenges me in a different way. As a teacher, this is important to recognize. Using new mediums, challenging myself, and seeing how my art evolves is always inspiring and exciting.

Any special projects you are working on in the art classes you teach? (Any desire to talk about your life as a teacher?)

I am currently in the process of obtaining a full time art teaching position.

What are you currently working on?

Recently, I have been working on portrait drawings. These skills are important to perfect in order to become a better artist in other areas. I love working with pencil. It is a completely honest and “no frills” approach to create art.

Elizabeth Sobkiw-Williams (can you buy zolpidem in mexico) is currently an art teacher in Montclair, New Jersey, where she lives with her husband, Matthew. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theater Studies in 2007, and completed her Masters degree in Art Education in 2011. She is passionate about art, travel, good food, and loves spending time with family and friends.

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Nonfiction by Fran Meadows

 

1. I finally convinced myself that my husband and I had to see a specialist.  Scary, but the reality these days is infertility is the new cancer.  It’s not openly spoken about but it’s reality for some.  Infertility back in the 80’s was like a sin, but now in the new millennium it’s like a secret sin, accepted a little more but still not talked about.  It’s as if you have a profanity written on your forehead, walking around, and everybody stares. 

2. I would put the sample in a sterile cup, label it and put it in a brown lunch bag.  I would drive to the doctor’s with it in between my legs to keep it warm.  I would be freaked out on those mornings, trying to get it on, get ready, get the sample, clean up, get dressed and go!  I would pray not to hit traffic or get pulled over with a warm sperm sample in between my legs. “Sorry, officer, I was speeding to get this sperm sample to the doctor’s office to get it injected into my vagina today in the hopes of becoming pregnant!” 

3. During three failed cycles [of infertility treatment], we both tried to be positive, but it was hard.  I was becoming obsessed with wanting to get pregnant.  After each cycle, I would even think I was pregnant by saying, “Hmmm…I think I feel sick or fat or something” to make me believe I was going to be pregnant this month.

4. I never imagined how many things could cause infertility and became more and more frustrated. After having three failed IUI (intrauterine insemination) cycles, the doctors were telling us that the cause of our infertility was unknown.  There were some factors that could be contributing to infertility, like my husband had low sperm levels; I had cervical polyps that might be blocking the flow of the sperm, even though the polyps were removed and all tests showed my tubes were clear.  They also found out that I had a thyroid condition that needed to be maintained.   I had no idea of this until I started going for treatments.  Apparently these things had something to do with getting pregnant, too.  I began taking Synthroid for my hypothyroid condition…and we now moved on to the next step in medication.

5. Prior to beginning my IVF cycle, I had to participate in an injection class to teach me how to give injections. I felt like I was in a junkie class instead of a class to assist in making a baby.  The nurses helped me understand how to draw up the medicines, mix them if necessary, and inject.  We injected needles on dummy skin like props. 

6. We kept going strong and never quit.  I was quite shocked that my husband worked together with me on this.  I thought for sure he would have said, “Forget it, this is not working,” and give up.  Sometimes I wanted to give up but felt that we got this far with failed cycles…there had to be one good cycle coming.  We would never know if we quit now. 

7. The pregnancy test was just a simple blood test, nothing more.  I went in very positive.  I felt good about the day.  I gave my blood and they wished me good luck.  The nurse called me that day.  I didn’t want to answer my cell phone since I was at work, so I let the message go to voicemail.  I listened to the voicemail by myself on my way home from work.  You could tell by the voice what the outcome was.  Not pregnant!  I remember pulling over, crying hysterically, and then composing myself to go home and tell my husband. During this time of uncertainty for us, many people became pregnant, including my dog….  Some people put absolutely no effort into trying, just spread their legs and they’re pregnant…served on a silver platter.  Good for them, sucks for me!  I wished that silver platter would be there for me.  Every time a pregnancy announcement was made I would break down inside.  I became numb to the announcements.  It’s not that I wasn’t happy for the person; it was that it just made my situation more painful.  

8. “When are you having a baby?”  I would smile, grit my teeth and mumble to myself.  I just wanted them to stop asking and mind their own business.  Didn’t they get it?  Then, “When the time is right,” would come out of my mouth with a giggle. What if I said, “We are having some problems. What business is it of yours?” It probably would have worked, but I went with the quick answer, and I knew that answer would be rude.  I got through many of those parties and then went home and cried. 

Fran Meadows has written a book about her journey with infertility. She lives in Queens, New York. ambien cr generic pictureto find out more about her story and her book.

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An essay by Elaine Greensmith Jordan

When the first baby laughed for the first time, the laugh broke into a thousand pieces . . . Peter Pan

 

 “A cow? You bought a cow?” I’m not really surprised. My sister left California civilization for the simple life on a Michigan farm.

“She’s got that gloomy look—has a white triangle on her face,” Connie says. “I do the milking every morning.”

“I can’t imagine it.” My California kitchen looks shiny, suburban.

We talk for a while, catching up on our lives. By the time I hang up the phone, I feel I’ve been milking that cow myself. Talking with Connie discourages me. Her voice intensifies my grief.

Connie not only has a cow; she has four children. The fact is absurd. She’s two years younger than I and has given birth four times while I’ve been teaching at the high school. Four babies! She raises her brood on a farm, of all things. With her husband and family she’s gone back to the earth like so many others during the Sixties. That too is absurd. We grew up in California, in the suburbs. Absurd or not, I want my sister’s role, mother to adorable children.

My sister wore toy guns in holsters and played cowboy. She liked to climb on to the roof of our house to frighten us. While Mother shouted for her to get down, Connie would wave to us from way up there, a sprite framed in blue sky. Now I imagine her a rural mother who ignores drooling toddlers and crying from the playpen, preferring her cow. I played with dolls when we were young. I should be the one with children. I could do a better job. I’d rush to wipe faces and offer pats. We wouldn’t live on a farm. We’d live near a library and a park, and I’d read to my children every evening.

My husband, Carl, in bell-bottomed trousers, a silky shirt, and long sideburns, comes into the kitchen, and we stand together preparing our breakfast, two tall figures—a flamboyant man smoking a cigarette and a prim schoolteacher holding her porcelain tea cup, a wedding gift. I gaze outside at the backyard, the view as suburban as my kitchen: green lawn with tree. Mattie, our black cat, tiptoes through the dewy grass shaking the droplets off her feet before each step, a dark shadow in a green world.

“Connie’s bought a cow.”

“Oh.” Carl takes a drag on his cigarette. He looks distracted, but I’m not sure how he feels. I can’t talk with him about anything, including my desperation. Our marriage isn’t like that. We’re too politically involved in civil rights (him), too busy reading important books (me). Before we married I rejected the boring men I dated and chose Carl, a man of high ideals. That’s what you do when you’re twenty-one. You choose high ideals. A boring man would look pretty good in this kitchen, I think. Sighing a dramatic sigh, I take a sip of tea from the pretty cup.

While I butter two pieces of toast I imagine Connie’s cow, barns, livestock, the smell of soil. “Want one?” I say. Carl shakes his head and I turn away facing the window again. The cat has disappeared.

We’ve been married for ten years and haven’t had enjoyable sex as we try to create a child. Each effort is mechanical, prompted by a doctor’s program for successful intercourse, whatever that is. I worry that I’m not a good lover, whatever that is. Carl lights another cigarette and snaps the lid of his Zippo lighter. The sound has the crack of the last word, a steely pop. Case closed. Then the screen door slams as he leaves with his coffee mug, headed for work. “Take it easy.” Maybe he’ll be home for dinner or maybe not. I don’t know where he spends time.

It doesn’t occur to me to leave this marriage. In my Sixties universe, women don’t divorce unless they’ve been attacked or find their husbands locked in the arms of a floozy. (We said floozy a lot then.) My options do include a cozier solution, a child who’ll bring warmth and love into our marriage. I’ve been having fertility treatments for months.

Emptiness haunts the spaces at home. I look forward to every teaching day, but when I return to our vacant house in the late afternoon, I suffer a headache. A friend tells me the pain might have something to do with my marriage. She thinks her insight is funny. I prefer to think my miseries are brought on by infertility, a condition easier to understand.

After school I’ll see a gynecologist again. Every healthy woman should be able to get pregnant, and I’m going to an expensive medical specialist who’s been trying to cure me. I trust that Dr. Brighton can find what’s wrong even though he’s started me on pills that leave me weepy. He’s tried painful procedures too—that he’s never explained—like injections into the vagina with a long needle and cauterizing the cervix (an unpleasant procedure with attendant smells) and some others I’ve chosen to forget.  

I rinse my tea cup and make my way along the path through the grass to the car-port. No black cat. No glance from her yellow eyes. When I open the door of the car and raise my foot to get in, I’m startled to see my blue terry slippers instead of the high heels I wore in those days. Slippers keep me in a soft retreat from fertility doctors and Carl’s neglect but will not do for the classroom, so I retrace my steps to the house, regretting having to return to a lonely place.

Driving to the doctor’s office after the close of school, I cry at the sight of my dreary face in the rear-view mirror. Thinking of my sister suckling a baby—or milking a cow, for God’s sake—makes me cry too. When I look back at those times, I see myself weeping in every setting: our empty house, in bed, fixing meals and the privacy of a car.

The brick medical offices are set back on grounds landscaped with red and pink camellia bushes. Only trained gardeners can grow camellias, Mother likes to say, so I choose to believe that the doctors in this blooming complex are trustworthy, though I’m not comfortable with Dr. Brighton. He seems to look through me, as if he’s heard my story many times and it bores him.

In the windowless waiting room, with its trailing spider-plant on a stand, I join a phalanx of silent barren women. (The word barren, used commonly in those days, described women who weren’t fully human, hadn’t fulfilled their role assigned by God.) The whisper of turning magazine pages breaks the quiet until giggles come from the staff behind the office petition. I know they’re laughing at us. Though I’d not become heavy with child I was nursing an oversized paranoia. I wish now I’d spoken to the other women, said some silly thing.

Dr. Brighton sits at his desk in front of an expanse of plate-glass. Why the waiting room had been denied windows and a huge one is reserved for this office strikes me as odd—not demeaning, just odd. An afternoon glare behind the powerful man puts his body in shadow. He doesn’t get up or welcome me but sits tilted back in his chair, nearly touching the glass, his arms behind his head. Even though I can’t see his face because of the gleam of sunlight, I sense an annoying cheeriness in him.

“How’s it going?” he asks.

“I’ve been crying a lot. I’m not pregnant.” I try to breathe. “What’s in these pills? Why does it make me so tired?” The tears come and I look away. “Some odd hair is growing on my—”   

With a squeak of his chair the doctor’s body comes forward out of the shadow. “Your clitoris should have enlarged. Wasn’t that a bonus?”

I hate Doctor Brighton. That my medical professional, a healer for God’s sake, could reduce the pain of being unable to conceive a child to the size of a clitoris feels wounding, as if I’ve been gored by knives. He’s Vlad the Impaler, a torturer. He doesn’t care or understand. Stunned as if smacked into awareness, I sit straight, awakened to new visions in the room. Shadow Man looks like a leering Jack Nicholson, and I turn from Cringing Child to Wolf-Woman. I’ll use my fangs and rip out his throat. The good doctor will fall back through the window leaving a mutilated corpse for his giggly secretary to find in the morning.

But mayhem doesn’t suit. Lady schoolteachers don’t murder people.

Saying nothing, I exit the office, slip past the secretary’s desk and rush to my car, wishing I’d been able to castrate the creep in the chair. Furious with my helplessness, I sit in the car unable to drive, sobbing. I’ll never submit again to an arrogant doctor. I’ll never have another infertility treatment. I’ll never get pregnant.

The drive away from the office is lost in memories of that day. There must have been California sunlight, camellias, houses and black cats, but I doubt if there were pastures or cows. Case closed.

Except the case hasn’t closed for me. I wish for another ending—that I’d had the courage to fight for myself and my wounded spirit hurt by insult. Since then, my fury has burned away grief, and I’ve turned that anger on narrow values of that time and the prevailing stupidities that I bought into. I was so influenced by popular thinking that I let myself be trapped by middle-class values—family values—imposed by the church and the media. “Ozzie and Harriet” was a television show I liked to make fun of, but I bought the whole package, the view of women as valuable only as mothersHarr. I couldn’t consider divorce? I wanted a baby to save my empty marriage? I was not the free thinker I thought I was.

We who are infertile are no longer thought of as inferior to fertile women, but the case is not closed. I wish it were.

***Note:  The Doctor’s name has been changed for his protection.

After a career in teaching and ministry, Elaine Greensmith Jordan now lives in Prescott, Arizona, writing personal essays to sort out the chaos. Her awards include the Nonfiction Prize from the Preservation Foundation and the Florida State Writing Competition. Her essays have appeared in South Loop Review, Alligator Juniper, Passages, The Georgetown Review, and other journals and anthologies. One has been nominated for a Pushcart by Arizona Authors. Excerpts from her unpublished memoir, Mrs. Ogg played the Harp: A Clergywoman’s Desert Odyssey, have won awards from the San Francisco branch of American PEN Women, Bayou Magazine, and the California Writers Club.

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Poems by Timothy Black

Missing an Umbilical

I am under water, and my son
is underwater. His hair floats like snakes,
like a tombed medusa’s. The plunge in
erased air from every inch of him.
He tilts back, under the water, and he floats
with his belly to the bright sky. I think,
This is amazing. He looks just like an embryo.
I want to reach out and touch him,
feel his skin wrapped in water
to make sure he’s real and still mine.
His father could come at any time.
Could plunge his hand
beneath the surface and grab
for his hair, grab a handful of snakes.
My son pushes off the bottom
and breaks the surface before me.
I stay submerged,
imagining a world without him.

Cancer Sex

 On most nights we lay there
swaddled in doubt,
but not delusions.
The dark
would press in at us,
or float at the end of day
like a question mark.
On most
nights, need would still be counted
as need, met only with the clasp
of sweaty hands. I
with my penis
and she with vagina and clit
we would lie, trying to ignore
marriage’s only real mandate.
On other nights
we would cover up with quilts
and ignore the fueling
locomotive with its black,
thick smoke and iron
wanting to be released
from its sooty black birth.
I would kiss her then,
and she would kiss back-
becoming more than cancer,
at long last mindless and carnal.
At the end I would always
withdraw. Terrified
of pumping
sickness into
my barren wife.

 

 

Timothy Black’s first poetic novella, Connecticut Shade, is in its second printing through WSC Press. He teaches poetry at Wayne State College, and is a ambien cr generic name. He lives in Wakefield, Nebraska with his wife and two sons.

Timothy’s work has appeared in the anthologies The Logan House Anthology of 21st Century American Poetry, The Great American Roadshow, and Words Like Rain. He has been published in The Platte Valley Review and at bringtheink.com, has poems forthcoming in Breadcrumb Scabs, zolpidem 5mg vs 10mgand orange pill 10 mg ambienand has won an Academy of American Poets prize for his poem “Heavy Freight.”

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nonfiction by Kimberly Schaye 

Samantha sits next to me in the tall grass, her tiny denim-clad legs outstretched, a dandelion poised at her puckered lips. “I will make a rhinoceros wish,” my two-year-old announces before she blows. Samantha believes there are rhinoceroses living in a drainpipe under the dirt road that runs past our flower farm. She already knows at least one basic rule of wishing: A puff on this silvery seed head could bring her animal friends into view. I have not tried to dissuade her from this belief. After all, I once wished for something just as fantastic, or so it seemed. I wished that I would have a child.

I always knew I wanted someday to be a mother, but after I got married I never gave much thought to how it would happen. I assumed that once my husband and I decided to throw away those birth control pills, natureand a few well-placed wisheswould take care of the rest.

My own mother was the one who taught me all about wishing and good luck. She knew all the rules. When I was little we searched for dandelions in Manhattan’s Riverside Park, upturned pennies on Broadway and stars over the New Jersey skyline, smog notwithstanding. Our faith in the efficacy of these rituals was absolute.
I tried them all in the first year my husband and I attempted to conceive, and even came up with a few of my own. Having left a big-city journalism career for a farmer’s life in the country, I often passed a particular field in my local travels that belonged to a sheep farm. As I counted down the days until I could take a pregnancy test, I would look out for lambs peeking out from behind large, fleecy ewes. If I saw a baby lamb, I took it as a sign of hope. No lambs meant try again next month. But after more than a year of trying, my husband and I agreed it was time to seek help of a more scientific kind. buy zolpidem tartrate online




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