Empty Nest
Yvonne Higgins Leach

In the silence the room’s four bare
walls compress, the carpet
trodden, the closet swept away

of the clothes she wears.
All the things that were hers,
that were clenched in time

and space, now occupy
a home of her own.
She lives without me now.

I pretend, in the unapologetic light,
to be the mother robin
unrepentant, even celebrant

of the fierce push from the nest.
But I am not.
Not until this riotous wind inside me

calms and falls away,
not until the threading of night
is more than darkness

will I stop asking,
as the poets have asked:
Are we ever spared the loss?

Yvonne Higgins Leach is the author of Another Autumn (WordTech Editions 2014). Her poems have appeared in South Dakota Review, South Carolina Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, Cimarron Review, and Wisconsin Review, among others. She earned a Master of Fine Arts from Eastern Washington University in 1986. She has spent decades balancing a career in communications and public relations, raising a family, and pursuing her love of writing poetry. She splits her time living in Vashon and Spokane, Washington. Visit www.yvonnehigginsleach.com

Victoria Ramirez

Today I took a walk down the dirt road
That was ours.

My burning flesh shivered as the wind
Forcibly kissed my skin.

You would have appreciated the way the
Gray sky threatened to spill its tears.

But all I could focus on were the leaves
Beneath my feet – they didn’t crack.

You remember how we made it a game
To jump on and crumble every fallen leaf.

You loved the crisp, crackling music their
Dried up bodies sang.

But today –

They didn’t split apart into smaller pieces when
My weight pressed their soft bodies to the ground.

No crack. No break. No noise.

They are not dead.

But you – whose eyes just blinked in glassy
Recognition, warmth just touched in gentle circles,
Scent overwhelmed of lilac and cinnamon –

As the ground embraces in eternal intimacy –
The world freezes over – how are these leaves not dead?

Victoria Ramirez obtained her BA in English with a minor in technical and professional writing from Texas A&M University Corpus Christi, Texas where she is now attending graduate school while working as a writing consultant and freelance editor. Victoria finds writing is a release from her anxiety, a platform to expose injustice, and a way to celebrate life and beauty.

Hepatitis A
stephanie roberts

Wayward boy, hold fast
your newly unwrapped heart;
Hepatitis A is not like love.

Blood retains the stain
of nation.Who he is:
platelets of Africa,
Caribbean plasma, dancing
red solar cells of Central
America, and anti-bodies,
lurking from this long
infection of Québec.

My boy inherits
and returns
as a sockeye to the river
of No Memory.

Before Honduras, we fill
his arm with pharmaceutical
patents against god’s judgement.
He needs to start antimalarials
now. In a land of no
natural immunity,
we exercise
care over water,
hand washing, taking
our medicine daily.

Heed me, boy. Rest your heart
remember blood; Hepatitis A,
is not like love; once you get it
you have it forever.

stephanie roberts was a top ten finalist, in the Causeway Lit 2016 Poetry Contest. This year her work appears or will appear in Reunion: The Dallas Review, Shooter Literary Magazine (UK), Room magazine (Canada), The Inflectionist Review, Waxing & Waning, and an anthology published by Medusa’s Laugh Press (where she was a finalist in their Nano Text Contest). She has also been featured in The New Quarterly, CV2, Blue Lyra Review, and Breakwater Review. She grew up in Brooklyn, New York and counts her strengths as passionate curiosity and good humor. www.oceansandfire.com

Donald, Called Mark, Enters Heaven
Kent Hanson

Like stitches in a wound,
bloody thread pierces and binds
the flesh, once bay or gray or chestnut,
colors accelerating astonishingly
through the resistant air,
only to finish bleached,
utilitarian, a tool
for child’s play and dreams
of being larger than life,
of taking the hill
and staring down all comers,
left or right, real or imagined.

We threw that thing for all
it was worth, cousin, taking
our fathers back like a time machine
to fresh-mown fields and perfect bodies, to diamonds
of certain perception
where memory and promise
fused in a flash of wrist-borne ash,
a crack utterly
clean, a natural grace note
that cut through every spring
like marrow in the bone—
blood to blood, flexible and free.

We were minor league fools,
chasing chimeras as if
the fire would never be exhausted,
caught in backyards of myth and mutual desire.
When anticipation
buckled to nostalgia,
we should have abandoned the game,
but neither of us
had the right constitution.
You picked up a gun.
I picked up a pen.  Nothing
could replace what we’d left behind.

Now you turn the nozzle
on the tank, struggling for one
last breath. I wonder if the heartbreak
of parting is harder to bear than what we felt
as each day passed, taking
us into a future
that failed our imaginations.
Death is a snap curve—
perplexing parabola
gravity dictates
despite our best intentions.
We see it coming, and we wave.

Kent Hanson was born and raised in a small steel town in Western Pennsylvania, from which he made his way to Chicago and Northwestern University. For the past 40 years he has worked as a writer, something he continues to do in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Questions at the Corner of Spring and State
Jane Schneeloch

Where does dignity grow?
Between ivy leaves on granite buildings?
In Petrie dishes in steel laboratories?
Or in refrigerator boxes in alleys?

How does dignity grow?
Does it shoot straight up like daffodils in spring?
Does it inch forward like a glacier?
Or does it gradually accumulate like tin cans in a grocery cart?

When does dignity grow?
Does it rise with the dawn?
Does it appear suddenly at the moment of battle?
Or does it wait patiently in line for soup?

V. Jane Schneeloch has been either writing or encouraging others to write for most of her life. Retired from teaching English at East Hartford High School, she has led writing workshops for youths, senior citizens, and incarcerated women. Her poems have been published in Common Ground Review, Connections: New York City Bridges in Poetry, Equinox, Flowers and Vortexes, Hello, Goodbye, Peregrine, Poetic Voices Without Borders, Shine, Survivors Review, Sojourners, Vine Leaves Literary Journal, and The Best of Vine Leaves Literary Journal 2014. Her collection of poems, Turning Over Leaves, was published in 2015 by Antrim House Books. Climbing to the Moon: Poems Inspired by the Art of Georgia O’Keeffe, a chapbook, was published in 2009 by Finishing Line Press. Her plays In Hiding and The Test were produced at the Drama Studio in Springfield, Massachusetts, where she lives and continues to be inspired by her walks in Forest Park.


The Thing Itself Issue 44-“Empty Nest,” “Leaves,” “Hepatitis A,” “Donald, Called Mark, Enters Heaven,” “Questions at the Corner of Spring and State”