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            After Follain

Flecked with darkness
a piece of fruit
not quite a peach
tumbles over
the quiet part of the town
like a yellow hem
a list goes up
the side of a room
it wakens a tiny woman
with spring-green eyes
and four flowers
on her pillow,
two tropical
two from local fields.
A small black
and white window rolls
around the re
volving fruit,
tiny news printed
on it like a receipt
and a photo
of the woman at the end
of a gangway
holding a lake
by its handle,
holding her family
with the lake.


Oh, Massachusetts

I pick up the border
of Massachusetts—and drop it
I twang, twang, twang it,
the wavy line, the magnetic line
the ins and outs of it
that make a profile,
inlets and vestibules,
estuaries and the entrance
to a McDonald’s.
After a few seconds,
the cove and a bar code
of poplar trees stop moving.
I pick up the border
of Massachusetts—and drop it
I thrum, thrum, thrum it,
the lyric mile,
poetic lines like peninsulas, jetties, long reaches, sand bars in octometer, calcified prose
with revolving towns,
bead cities
shiny with information
& after miles of generalities
the door knob to the women’s restroom in a Starbucks,
the wicker mail box in the lobby
15 Arlington, Apartment 27.
I pick up Route 3, a junction,
and Walnut Path and drop them drop them,
and the end of the line
ekes out fife music,
murmur of the militia,
construction sounds of the new museum
wing, then falls silent.
While the heron on one leg in the bay
like a swizzler stick
like a lawn flamingo in Leominster
watches, the border slams
the ground one more time,
making the granite floor
in the baby’s room rattle,
I could break the prose across my knee
and make a 3-lined shelf
for the state bird, flower, tree,
the Mayflower, I-Max, and the brick factories,
but I strum, I strum,
strum, strum it,
and a yellow river
dribbles down my chest
—a passing lane
of crèche paper, party streamer
from the jade cave:
I am only a mile from my heart.



Here comes the rattling part of the poem.
Pom-pom poem poem, silver balls
Silver balls along a line that’s being transported

Poem-poms on a dusty royal canopy bed
that’s being moved to another epoch in the building,
to a dove-colored room with egg-shell blue chairs.

Here comes the rattling part of a sentence,
and the fringe on a landscape, border around rhythmic rooms,
people in the hem. Grasp the ornate handle,

the great swish, slash lines of movement.
Tree tones, river tones, silver mountain tone,
Cedar waxwing, grosbeak, sea gull,

the curator’s cell phone has dropped onto the ancient bedspread.
Subject, verb, backslash, the underlined places in the room.
Here comes the rattling part of the sentence,

the underlined second half knocking into each other
like people in italics on a flat bed truck,
past crushed velvet crops, sunflowers.

Here comes the rattle of a sentence.
Two paper plates stapled together, put molars or dried corn inside
& hold up with an arts & crafts popsicle stick.

To make a Happy Face, drop in the beads of two thoughts,
swish it around, tilt head like shaking out water,
let them chase each other down tunnels

and chambers, poem-poems on the way to a labyrinth,
past the emergency room and the laundry room.
Tears stream down the sunflower. Saying goodbye to

stop signs it passes on a rattling truck.


Alexandria Peary is the author of Fall Foliage Called Bathers & Dancers and Lid to the Shadow and co-author of Creative Writing Studies: A Guide to Its Pedagogies (forthcoming). Her poems have recently appeared in The Denver Quarterly, New American Writing, and The Gettysburg Review. She is an associate professor in the English Department at Salem State University and runs a Mindful Writing Blog: zolpidem 10 mg imprint.

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Anne Boleyn, Second Wife of Henry VIII

The Queen’s Failure


The Stillbirth


(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




fallow land, my

womb – barain, aridez

devoid of fruit, incapable




fertillus seeds,

produce a spawning womb,

sustain abundant growth, a crop,

a son



Henry Hears Rumors of Anne’s Infidelity


(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


(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


(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.




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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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



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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100mg ambien overdoseYour poem ambien for sale philippinescharting fertility, ends on the sweet and surprising metaphor of a cowgirl—how did you arrive at that metaphor?

I had the image of a flailing sort of surrender, a frustrated reaction to all the different sorts of white-papered journals and charts—what I was eating, what my morning temperature was, how many days since a particular pill was taken. The flap of a flag in the wind reminded me so much of that bucking bronco, which is how that image eked its way into the poem. Later, when I was pregnant, I wrote the poem ambien 10 mg pill identification; it turns out I wasn’t completely done with cowgirl imagery.

In “Sleeping Pill” you marry fairytale to the mundane, with such lovely imagery as the beanstalk, the fire flies, nightlight. Can you talk to us about writing this poem?

Oh, whenever I count out my pills, and at my height it was over a dozen, my husband teases me about needing one of those pill-a-day organizers—I’d hold them in the creases of my hand, and I’d think to how those seeds would look in my palm each spring—the largeness, the plumpness of the beans always surprised me. I think this was the trigger. Often, when I write a poem, I just let my brain crack open and see where it goes—I love the chase of it. I also love best the poetry that connects the mundane, the domestic, with the fantastic—with rich verbs and surprising metaphor, personification.

Can you tell us about the project you run, Balancing the Tide: Motherhood and the Arts? How did you become involved and how did the project develop?

A lot of interesting things happened in the winter of 2010/2011. In December, my chapbook was published. In January, my daughter was born, after a tough conception, a tricky pregnancy, and a complicated labor (and an infection and a few months later, gallbladder surgery). I was pretty well walloped, and I was supposed to defend my thesis in May of 2011, but it just wasn’t to be. That spring, I could have easily seen myself abandoning poetry in lieu of becoming some kind of Super-Mom—keeping up with the house, teaching my daughter sign language, making sure the dogs were walked twice a day as they had become accustomed, keeping the household accounts in order, knitting and sewing her clothing, all at once, in a kind of frenzy. What was left of me? In January, I only read one book. For me, that’s unheard of. The year before, I had read easily over two hundred.

I realized I couldn’t lose that part of me, the poetry part. And I was hungry for other narratives about how people did it, but also for how people failed too. We don’t admit these things often enough—that it’s hard and we mess up, but it’s the collection of imperfections and foibles that make up our journey, right along with the best bits. It’s also an incredible excuse for me to contact artists I admire. About twice a month, I put up an interview with an artist-mama, each with the same questions, and get to learn about how she does (or did) it. It’s meant to be a space of comfort—of commiseration and inspiration.

Any desire to talk about your role as Poetry Editor at Midway Journal?

That’s been an interesting development! I edited poetry for dislocate when I was in the MFA program, and I’ve judged for the Minnesota Book Awards. I originally came onto the journal as a reader in October to help my friend out, who is also a poet and book artist. But my role morphed pretty quickly, and now I’m editing poetry for each issue. I’m excited about some of the poets we have in our line-up—and some of the poems have just given me chills. Some people are exhausted by the slush pile and I admit, when it builds up, it can feel a bit like a marathon, but what I love the most is finding that gem by someone whose work I’ve never heard of before—people whose work I want to champion and show off and read over and over again. Poems that echo in my brain long after reading them, that ought to be carried around and recited to strangers in the street. I also delight in getting poems from solicitations by poets I deeply admire. It feeds me, this work.

How do you balance motherhood, writing, and your duties as a poetry editor and interviewer?

I’m a stay-at-home-mother, much as I hate that term, and even worse—when people use homemaker, mainly to fill in that requisite box. My home is a lived-in mess. Yes, we eat together at the table, but I’m lucky enough to have a husband who is more likely to whip something up than I am. We’ll take time together to clean the house in a guests-are-coming frenzy, but my days are really spent reading to Maya and putting puzzles together and pulling weeds (and sometimes, oops, not-weeds) in the garden, etc. I think if I were teaching, which is what I did before Maya was born—recently at a university and before that, high school English—I might not have anything left for writing. Teaching and mothering are both such amazingly wonderful and exhausting occupations, and so is tending to what I consider my professional life, the life of poems. Of course, there were times when I’d get into a rhythm and would write a poem at the start of each prep period or when office hours were slow—I think that’s a big factor, rhythm.

I recently attended a reading of Tracy K. Smith at Minneapolis’ Loft Literary Center, and she was asked a very similar question (she has a two-and-a-half-year-old). She said being a mother has removed her ability to procrastinate, and I think that’s exactly right for me too.

My husband will go to sleep with our daughter (we co-sleep) and I’ll sneak back downstairs and stay up late to submit poems or read—I get into that in-and-out rhythm and can get a lot done in small spurts. I also have a very dear writing group of women, and we will have poetry dates and we’re working on a collaborative book-length sequence of poems inspired by the aubade, and having that kind of accountability helps keep me moving. I also tend to write about my subjects in-the-moment, so Pine was written as I went through doctor’s appointments and little pains and great yearning and whatnot. It’s trickier with a toddler who takes busy up several notches (she is, delightfully, a Kiefer, after all), but I’m learning to write while balancing a writing notebook on her stilled noggin or just running lines in my head over and over until I can get them down. I dream of retreat, but I also cringe at the idea of leaving her. Sometimes I’m jealous of my poet-friends as they are childless by choice or not quite ready yet, so they have a bit more geographic and time-freedom than I do, but then again, when I had that freedom, I was a procrastinator. I’m more prolific now, I think, and it’s out of necessity. If I didn’t let this part of me live, I might not be free to be the person my daughter needs me to be. It feels good, these selves.

Any mentors or favorite poems on the subject of motherhood you’d like to suggest for our readers?

Oh, I’ve read so much in preparation for sending Pine into the world—I wanted to make sure I felt I had something new to add to the discussion and was aware of others who had gone before me and are going at the same time as me. I’ve started a collection of resources I turned to on zolpidem 12.5 mg price. I can say I really loved The Grand Permission: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood, edited by Brenda Hillman and Patricia Dienstfrey, Beth Ann Fennelly’s Great With Child: Letters to a Young Mother, and the work of Sharon Olds. I read “Bathing the Newborn” and “High School Senior” when I was seventeen, and Olds’ rich, savory language made her my first and to this day, absolute most favorite poet. I also really enjoyed Kimiko Hahn’s Narrow Road to the Interior and Leslie Adrienne Miller’s Resurrection Trade, which aren’t strictly about motherhood but do integrate motherhood and the body into some gorgeous poems. And Rachel Zucker with her honesty. I could keep going—there are so many good writers out there. Right now, I’m slowly working my way through Not for Mothers Only, an anthology out from Fence, and it too, is good stuff.

Can you tell us a bit about the subject matter of your chapbook, The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake?

The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake is a kind of love story to my grandparents—my paternal grandfather, who was a professor, as was my grandmother, developed a rapid and severe case of Alzheimer’s, which was startling and disorienting for me. It was the first I observed someone I really cared about disintegrate in body and mind, and there were so many understated but raw feelings there—the old love of my grandparents, the life of a man whose world was language becoming surreal, this geography that was a part of my childhood and rapidly changing. I think the body will always be a huge curiosity for me—I love anatomy textbooks. Marianne Boruch, whose work I admire, was able to take classes as a professor at her college, and she took life drawing through the art department and a cadaver lab through the medical school and came up with a sequence called “Cadaver, Speak ” that was published in The Georgia Review. I remember thinking: I’d love to do that!

Can you tell us about your current writing projects? Anything in the wings?

Writing-wise, the full-length book Pine has begun to make its way to contests and between submissions, I scrub it up a bit, add a new poem, take out a poem, add an image that came to me. And I’ve started a third collection, which is a bit wider in scope than Recent History or Pine. I’m writing poems that I consider profile poems—not persona poems, but ones that bring to life experiences of women. Verse Wisconsin just accepted one that was written in observing Hillary Clinton and Aung San Suu Kyii met the first time called “Two Women in Turquoise.” I’m interested in writing poems about women whose lives I’d want to point out to my daughter, down the line—women who were brave, in some way or another, who lived in a full, open-arms kind of way. And I’m still writing poems about mothering, but more so as a feminist—there is a poem in Stymie about the roller derby, another in Harpur Palate about a sexual harassment experience I had in seventh grade and the desire to be proud of one’s body, etc.

I’ve also got that aubade—we have a document that shuffles between the four of us, and once a month, we contribute something to the conversation, with a few rules to keep its shape. I think what they say about MFA programs—that the best thing that comes from them is the friendships and connections you make—is absolutely true. I know by reading these women’s work and by really listening to what they have to say about the work that they love, I’ve broadened my own horizons. Sometimes we’ll read a volume together, sometimes we’ll simply get together and read poems out loud to one another. Sometimes we’ll go on hikes and come back with nothing by mosquito bites, laughter, and thunderheads.

One writing-subject related development is that my daughter, who is turning eighteen months old on July 3rd, will become a big sister in February! This is very fresh news to us, and a bit of a surprise as it happened naturally, coinciding with my starting a regimen of infertility treatment, which I didn’t need to finish, it turns out. Sometimes my breath catches with how blessed I’ve been, how blessed I continue to be.

Molly Sutton Kiefer’s chapbook The Recent History of Middle Sand Lake won the 2010 Astounding Beauty Ruffian Press Poetry Award.  Her work has appeared in Harpur Palate, Berkeley Poetry Review, Gulf Stream, Cold Mountain Review, Wicked Alice, and Permafrost, among others.  She serves as poetry editor to Midway Journal and curates Balancing the Tide:  Motherhood and the Arts | An Interview Project.  She currently lives in Red Wing with her husband and daughter, where she is at work on a manuscript on (in)fertility and finishing her MFA at the University of Minnesota.  More can be found at generic ambien from canada.

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obat ambien yang aman untuk ibu menyusuibuy ambien overnight cod,” right off with that title, takes us into unmapped emotional territory. Not only for its secondary implied point of view, but for the serious subjects it juxtaposes (miscarriage and a cancer in a child). Can you talk to us about the process of writing this poem and how you arrived at that stellar title?

People often say that men can’t understand pregnancy, miscarriage, childbirth, etc., because they have never physically experienced it, which becomes particularly problematic when men attempt to control or legislate what goes on inside women’s bodies. This poem came about because I wanted to envision a scenario through which a man might gain a better perspective on miscarriage. Because the boyfriend in the poem has experienced a situation where his body (in this case, his bone marrow) was unable to sustain a child’s life, he begins to understand why a woman who has had a miscarriage might be unwilling to try again.

“Heat” continues this push into unmapped fertility/sexuality territory, with that feral metaphor of the over-heated, hatched female “sterile, chunky / aggressive” fending off the fertile females, landing beautifully with the closing image of the pull to female to female passion. Again, can you talk to us about your process and choice of metaphors, if there are other images you are further working with in your poetry along these lines?

I’m fascinated by the animal kingdom, especially when it comes to mating rituals, and I often find that describing a literal phenomenon that occurs in nature allows me to then explore metaphorical issues that impact my own species. The sex and breeding behavior of a gecko is directly determined by environmental factors, whereas the environment of human society dictates what behaviors and expressions of sexuality will be regarded as deviant or defective. The speaker’s anger issues may be a result of her prenatal environment, but what provokes her anger is social constraints and a one-size-fits-all mentality; when given free expression, her condition becomes celebratory. Another metaphor I’ve used is the feeling of wanting out of one’s own skin, which I compare to reptiles who literally shed their skin.

I found “’Inappropriate’ Lactation after a Miscarriage” incredibly moving—thank you for writing this poem. Have you encountered other poems in your reading history along this topic (I know I haven’t yet) that you would point our readers toward?

Thank you. I haven’t actually come across any poems that portray this particular aspect of a miscarriage, which is one reason why I wanted to write about it.

Any poetry mentors or other inspirations you’d like to share with us?

All of these poems were written while I was a student at Vermont College, where I worked with Betsy Sholl, Leslie Ullman, Natasha Saje, and Roger Weingarten. I enjoy the work of Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, June Jordan, and Lucille Clifton, among other feminist poets. I also admire Sharon Olds’ use of the body as subject matter and Pattiann Rogers’ use of animals as metaphors.

What are you currently working on?

I’m currently enrolled in the PhD program at the University of Cincinnati, where I’ve been working on a series of poems that explore my experience with chronic illness.

And just for fun, (if we assume the pet shop source is personal and not projected), will  you be sharing the poems with that owner?

That poem was inspired by several pet store owners I’ve encountered over the years, none of whom would appreciate being immortalized. My pets, however, are fans of my work.

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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In college, my best friend once described her hips as “child-bearing hips.” She knew back then that she wanted children and, indeed, now has six beautiful and healthy daughters. 

Me? I didn’t even know what hips were. Literally. If somebody had provided me pictures of two headless bodies-one male, one female-I wouldn’t have been able to distinguish the outline of hips on the female body.

A boyfriend once pointed out a transvestite, then said, knowingly, “You can always tell the difference between a woman and a transvestite. A transvestite lacks hips.”

My response? “Huh?” The transvestite looked like a perfectly beautiful woman to me!


I was never one of those women whose overwhelming desire in life was to have children, what some childless men and women have sneeringly referred to as a breeder.

Motherhood was simply never one of my goals.

One of the reasons I left organized religion, in fact, was the emphasis it all too often places on motherhood. I always felt devalued as a woman in the Christian church, and it never comforted me to have my feminist concerns pooh-poohed with a well-meaning, but completely off the mark, comment like this: “But women are completely valued in the church. There’s nothing more important than motherhood. That’s the most important role in life, male or female.”

I heard a preacher one time say that he was sick and tired of hearing people say that God doesn’t value women. “God chose a woman to carry his only begotten son,” he said. “That should prove how valuable women are! They’re more valuable than men!” (I didn’t have the guts to raise my hand and ask if he actually thought God would have chosen a man to give birth to his only begotten son, which would have truly been a miracle….but I definitely thought about it.)

Whenever I heard the emphasis on motherhood in sermons, I wanted to ask: If women are valuable because they are mothers, what happens to a woman’s value if she’s infertile? Or if she can conceive, but her body is incapable of carrying a baby to term? If women are valued precisely because they are mothers, does a woman cease to be valuable if she is unable or unwilling to contribute to the ongoing human gene pool? And are women to be valued for nothing else? Can’t they be valued as scientists, artists, educators, and healers? What about being valued because we’re funny, smart, thoughtful, or we make a good friend?  

I never got around to asking those questions. I just stopped going to church. I was tired of crying all the time, tired of fighting people with stupid ideas about what constitutes a person’s value.

I’d go as far as to argue that this strong correlation between motherhood and saintliness, and the conflation of our value as women with our fertility, can be labeled as spiritual abuse.

A person is valuable because of who they are, not because of the fertility-related identity role(s) they assume in life, roles such as wife, mother, grandmother. A woman should never be valued simply because of her ability to conceive and bear a child, just like a man should never be valued simply because he produces viable sperm.

So why do so many women’s self-images founder on their ability to conceive and bear a child, to successfully raise functioning members of society-at-large?


I never thought of myself as a slow learner, but when it comes to parenthood, I’m definitely a late-bloomer.

Throughout my twenties, I was grateful that I didn’t have children. The life of an artist is hard enough without adding babies to the mix, I thought.

When I first got married in my mid-twenties, my husband (now ex) and I planned to remain blissfully childfree. I hadn’t anticipated, then, that my biological clock would kick in with a vengeance as I approached thirty. Suddenly, to my surprise, I wanted kids. Oh, not the goobery, snotty-faced, diaper-rashed babies that grow up into delightful, creative, intelligent young people; no, as I approached thirty, I suddenly realized that I’d be thrilled if my children could emerge from my womb, already 10 or 11 or 12 years old. Talking in complete sentences. Potty-trained. Relatively independent already. You know, little adults.

This was an impossible dream, of course, unless I was willing to adopt an older child and deal with the potentially debilitating emotional problems they might have-always a crapshoot.

In lieu of heading down that path just yet, my husband and I have recently been trying for the flesh-and-blood variety, a normal baby conceived in the normal way pushed out of a normal vagina at the normal age of 0 months’ old. I guess I’m willing to subject myself to sleepless nights, poopy diapers, and sore breasts so I can get that pre-teen, teenager, college-student, and adult child I long for down the road.

But even as I embrace my identity as a woman “TTC” (a popular internet acronym that stands for “trying to conceive”), I still vacillate in my desire for children and it has to do with that fragile thing called identity.

There is always one solid reason for me to give up on the idea of motherhood: my identity as an artist. I’ve worked hard to get to the place where I am. I write five or six hours every day, and then teach college writing classes and run my small literary press on top of that. Recently, I’ve started working as a writing coach, and offering private writing classes in my home for children, teenagers, and adults. I easily put in twelve hours a day. It’s hard to imagine how I’ll balance all of that with motherhood.

It’s when I contemplate the vast gulf between what I desire to do with my life and the reality of raising children that I begin to wonder if I really want them.

Yet just when I think I might be “okay” with foregoing the pleasures of parenting, I realize I’m still captive to the idea that being a woman means being a mother. Intellectually, I know that this is a false belief. Emotionally, somewhere deep inside of me, I still believe that to live a full life, experiencing the full range of human emotions, requires adopting the role of parenthood, however your children come into your life.

Why the hell do I continue to associate my value as a woman with my fertility?

And so, I’m on the verge of giving up, of saying, “No more. I don’t want to try to get pregnant any more. That doesn’t mean I’ll try to prevent pregnancy, but I don’t want my life to be dominated by cervical fluid, basal body temperature, and that period that comes late but inevitably comes.”

It’s true that I’ve only been trying for eight months but I’m already tired of the emotional roller-coaster. Twice, my period has been a week late. In those days when I think I might be pregnant, my mind jumps to sugary fantasies of what it’ll be like, and I’m overwhelmed by the I can’t wait-ness of it all.

And then the disappointment sets in when my basal body temperature drops, menstrual blood arrives, and I discover that I’m not, after all, pregnant.

I wonder how women do this over and over and over? You know, those women that try to conceive for years and years and years? Those women that go to heroic efforts, spend all sorts of time and money, all in their quest to have a child?

I don’t think I can keep it up.

I’m beginning to wonder if I’m willing to give up on the so-called “fullness of life experience” b.s. I was just blathering on about if it means some emotional sanity.

I’m fortunate. A few days ago, as we were having yet another discussion about my on-again off-again desire to get pregnant, my husband looked at me and said, “You are my world. I don’t need anything else.” And we once again talked about what we will do if we don’t get pregnant-move to South Africa or Mozambique, to the Caribbean, to Ecuador or Argentina or Brazil, or maybe to all of those places for a few years apiece. Or we could take in foreign-born foster children, generally teenagers by the time they make it here after spending years in refugee camps.

Without children, the world is our oyster.

But still, it all comes down to this crux issue: What does it mean to be a woman? What does it mean for me to feel valuable as a person?

We all, we all, need to learn to value ourselves apart from these roles we assume in life. For me, that includes the role of artist. If I replace motherhood with artist, am I really any better off? I’m still valuing myself by something that is transitory, fleeting. We don’t achieve immortality through our art. Nor do we achieve it by bearing offspring.

As I move forward TTC, or not TTC, I hope I can learn to value myself as Jessica with no titles attached to my name.


Last November, I had a dream about motherhood and identity. In the dream, I was in a house, surrounded by women I know who have young children. I wandered from person to person, but I couldn’t relate to any of them. In fact, I felt inferior as I talked with them-there was a sense in which all of them had experienced a part of womanhood that I lacked, and so we couldn’t connect. I felt, well, robbed.  And even as I tried to interest them in non-motherhood-related topics, I realized what I was doing: they seemed to think I was inferior because I wasn’t a mother and so, subconsciously and nastily, I was trying to turn the tables by demonstrating that I’d had an interesting career and had traveled to so many exotic locales and done so many interesting things that they would never do, encumbered as they were with snot-faced babies and dirty diapers.

 Eventually, not liking that dynamic one tiny little bit, I separated myself from the mothers with babies and went to another part of the house. There, I was joined by my many African friends, and we discussed Africa, and politics, and health, and religion, and we ignored the issue of motherhood. Though many of my African friends are also parents, I felt none of the distance I’d felt from my mother-friends, who were treating me as though I was less of a woman because I wasn’t a mother.

I woke up and felt a moment of grief, like the dream was telling me I’d lost my chance at motherhood, that I’d traded it in for Africa and my writing.

On reflection later, I realized that of course, I have never given up my dream of motherhood-until the last few years, I didn’t have a spouse with whom I could have children. Instead, the dream was speaking to me about my hidden desire to be a mother as well as the obvious calling on my life to Africa and as a writer. My desire to have it all.

It was also reminding me of this unassailable truth: While all the other women in the room had chosen motherhood first-and let me add, they are all young women I admire, who have made the choices they wanted to make by choosing children over career, at least for the time being-I had chosen it second. And ultimately, I found myself in a room with the people I had chosen: Africans.

It was a revelation.

As I embark on this next stage of my life, trying to get pregnant, I’m constantly filled with doubts. Sometimes I wonder if motherhood is what God intends for me, or even if motherhood is something I want to add to my mixture of things I’ve already chosen (or that has chosen me)-Africa and writing. Sometimes I feel desperate to be pregnant, now, and sometimes, I secretly hope I’m not pregnant, so that nothing needs to change.  In fact, I worry about how motherhood will prevent me from doing the things I feel I’m supposed to do, in Africa, as a writer-those vague, hazy outline of things that make up my future. I’m still waiting for the clarion call from God, the angel of the Lord appearing to me in a dream, the way he did with Mary and Joseph, and telling me, “This is what you’re supposed to do. I’ve arranged everything for you. It won’t be easy but at least there’s no doubt about it.”

But that’s too easy and, in all likelihood, false. The path that God marked out for Mary and Joseph must have seemed hazy and uncertain to them. It is only clear in retrospect, when written about as a narrative, a narrative that brooks no other possible paths.

I wonder how fearful and frustrated Mary and Joseph must have felt as they walked down that road, wondering all the time if they could veer in a different direction, or if they even wanted to, or if this was really the path they were supposed to be on and if they weren’t just fooling themselves.

I wonder how much of this path I’m following I charted myself, and how much has been charted for me.

I suppose I’ll never know.

And, at least some of the time, I’m okay with that.


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