You Have
Zechariah Riebeling

pulling tighter on the strings.
A flag won’t wave when your throat is pulled tight not allowing your voice to sing.

:no wings,
So you will never fly without the use of machines.
Yet your ideas let them take flight
just a small concept of the way you fly.

as you stay down on the ground.
Not a cog or gear.
Just a hole that has
will be used.

:been warned,
They come.

been tightened
It’ll happen again.

:been left alone.

no nature no control.
You are the blood that coils, boils, oils
the machine that you don’t own.
You are, however, the hums and screams,
The cyclic nature of abuse that repeats.

:a body,
a vessel with means,
bursting at the seams,
that operates the machine, ones of broken dreams.

no beginnings
you are the rope’s end.
They’ll come again pulling fulfilling till they meet their needs and drain you again.
The scars on your back-
A memory of what has been.

of a time before the machine.
Machines built by nature,
natures built by machines.

the last of the string,
one of the many kites stuck in a tree.
In a peak of a dying crown
the leaves of which are an orange and a brown.

:roots deep.
Believe the land is free,
it’ll feel better when you concede
just believe, child’s belief
this is how it should be,
authority speaks.

kings and queens
tyrant and thieves
these are the gods to whom we beg and plea
your freedom is the honey they eat.

:a hive mind,
following orders blind,
believe now and find
the golden opportunity that can bind
a life of freedom that is no longer mine.

this is my last cry.
Don’t let the freedom of the few
override the freedom that were the many.

don’t let this be the norm.


Zechariah “Zach” Riebeling is a junior in the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) program at Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio. In only his second semester at OLLU, he feels blessed to be in the presence and company of an amazing student body, staff that work tirelessly, and faculty that strive for excellence in education. The commute to OLLU is worth it! Born and raised in San Antonio, Zechariah has spent most of his life working with his family in serving the poor and poverty-stricken of the south and west sides of San Antonio. If not at work, at school, or volunteering, Zechariah can be found outside with his dog, Skia, enjoying the blessings of Creation. His hope is that all, regardless of who they are, can enjoy the bounties of all that God has created. Life is meant to be lived, so live.

Vivian Wagner

New York dreams of wind
singing down
brackish streams retracing
winding beds,
armies of scraggly-
suited cockroaches marching
unchallenged over
abandoned sidewalks,
windows breaking,
seawater encroaching,
cattails spreading,
mackerel swimming
across Broadway,
waves crashing into
gilded towers.
When an island’s stories
go untold long enough
they re-emerge, the
old terror of silt and tides.

Vivian Wagner is an associate professor of English at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Her work has appeared in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Creative Nonfiction, The Atlantic, The Ilanot Review, Silk Road Review, Zone 3, Eyedrum Periodically, 3QR, and other publications. She’s also the author of a memoir, Fiddle: One Woman, Four Strings, and 8,000 Miles of Music (Citadel-Kensington), and a poetry collection, The Village (Aldrich Press-Kelsay Books).

Nouveau Breeds
Tatiana V. Johnson

Let them question your gentry, my good sons,
With or without your creed, they’ll judge your birth.
No, you may not have been born in the sun,
But we all get planted firm in the Earth.
They wash their hands ‘round twenty times a day,
While the dirt sticks calmly beneath our feet,
When they are done praying the rage gives way
And we’re the ones their anger seems to meet.
When their eyes flash red just widen your smiles,
Our teeth appear white against our dark skin,
When their eyes flash green, hide your  mother’s child,
They’ll show us where in their world she fits in.
You are either too rich for your born skin,
Or it’s a shame you were born in that form.
If our varied existence in a sin,
Then hell is our norm.

Tatiana V. Johnson is a full-time, undergraduate student studying for a BA in English at Our Lady of the Lake University. She is studying technical and professional writing but does conduct research in all eras of British Literature, Xicana cultural prose, and queer theory. Currently she is influenced by the authors and poets David Day, Gloria Anzaldúa, and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Mourning Light
Brandon Marlon

While sitting shivah it dawns on the daughter,
lorn and reft of an existential pillar, scalded by misfortune,
that the deceased was a fleeting blessing,
a foretaste of eternal companionship,
and that even the pain she inflicted was better
than the pleasure derived from others.

Strange how only in a period of darkness
shades of difference come to light.

Garbed in the customary dishabille,
she slouches on a lowered chair
as the community enters bearing
hot platters of food, setting them down on trivets,
proffering condolences and prayers lauding life.

When the world finally leaves the home,
she notes that the foods are the familiar foods
and the aromas the very aromas
reminiscent of the dearly departed,
who even in death made certain to nourish the family.

Brandon Marlon is a writer from Ottawa, Canada. He received his BA in Drama & English from the University of Toronto and his MA in English from the University of Victoria. His poetry was awarded the Harry Hoyt Lacey Prize in Poetry (Fall 2015), and his writing has been published in 150+ publications in 23 countries.

Requiem for the Baby
Kent Hanson

Your heart is served
on a cat’s claw, razor still
after the raging
reaches its hushed conclusion:
no more midnight assaults
or pissing in the hallways;
no more satin brushes
signaling out of the dark.

The bloody rock
stays like a secret, buried
beneath longstanding
affections and resentments.
Nothing quickens, even
when you wish with all your might
or feed hope through the nose
with an umbilical tube.

It’s your birthday,
and if I give you this ball
of need and anger,
it may bounce back to bite you,
shredding delicate veins
time has conspired to protect
by simply walking out
of a customary room.

Embrace the dead,
the reckoning demanded
as the film gets stuck
in the midst of the damn show.

Remember the action
and you’ll know what was— the purr
before the pause, sudden
footsteps puncturing the frame.

It’s your birthday,
and if it seems forsaken
by understanding,
consider that lessons come
in thunderclaps and toil,
windows shattered or opened
to let the outside in.

Then we can rest, and can live.

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.


The Thing Itself Issue 44-“You Have,” “Estuary,” “Nouveau Breeds,” “Mourning Light,” “Requiem for a Baby”