John C. Mannone – Five Poems
The sun hides behind my planet
casting shadows on the moon.
The snow moon drifts into the pale
dark, doesn’t see all those red sunsets
but through a rose colored glass
of air. Like the moon, I am full of light
before I slip into penumbra
of your smiles, thinly eclipsed
by your heart. In your chambers
I want to shed my garments
and be subsumed by those sunsets
if only for a few hours
before the cold might crater my heart
as I wane. You see me through the night
glare, but I still orbit you.
Hemlock and Juniper
The pine-soft kiss. May apple and Solomon’s seal on the side of a country road. A creek meandering into an enchanted glen. Waterfalls creasing rock, spraying rainbows. The way a table mountain pine grapples limestone, dirt sifting through its roots. Mushrooms whispering earth into my ears. Winterberry—heart red against galax green. Not pale as my own reflection in the nighttime window, even with the moon—in all its fullness— looking over my shoulder. Your face, with that same glow. Porters Creek trail stabbing into woods where a graveyard hides. Fear tugging at my sleeves to take me there before I can hold your hand again.
The Smell of Pine
My father was taller than a pine tree
when I climbed into his arms.
I held his limbs, looking down
pining the uprooted ground.
I pressed against his face, rough as bark,
whiskers stiff as bristle cones.
Yet he was a whispered kiss, a gentle wind,
the caress of leaves, the smell of evergreen.
It’s my turn to bear the pine-tarred tree.
I help him climb on me, his body frail.
I hold Dad, pressed hard against
the wooden box, then return him
as he has done for me so many times—
to the safety of the ground, to soft needles.
What About the Stars?
Let everything that has breath,
praise the Lord (Psalm 150)
… Even the stars
There’s a mighty whoosh of wind
from every sun. Inside their cores
they deeply breathe in hydrogen,
exhale helium like dragon’s hot fire
licking the ice-cold space, shining
their ruby-gold Light into darkness.
And that Darkness must flee.
Central Illinois one fall morning
Sun stirs from sleep. Its yellow magic
tints the edges of an eastern sky, a hint
of persimmon. Cirrus clouds, charged
electric crimson, patches pastel blue.
They hue the blackness of morning
to shades of forest matching the dark
green below the sky.
There, a geometry of ingenuity: lattice
of chutes, cylinders, cones and squares—
a silhouette of silos on soybean canvas.
A three-dimensional Picasso painting
evolving in time, Earth, a revolving easel.
Horizon slips—a palette spilling color
at ten miles a minute—unfolds sun.
But western sky is overcast with stratus.
Charcoal gray emerges from flat black.
Rain splatters, splits highway markers
—white stitches threading asphalt sheets,
mist wetting my face. As if a dream,
in the cool Decatur dark—I behold
a pot of gold, hear it clang the double
rainbow’s ring, plain beautiful!
This peals a stark awareness: yes,
the plains have no grandeur
of mountains, no oceans, no forests.
Only featureless dark flat blankets
of grain, with a plain road scar cut
up & down the skin of Illinois
by highway US 51. And from above
nothing but monotonous drones
from a bored airplane engine
I flew over this terrain dotted with
buildings, barns, and elevator bins
on acres & acres of soybean, wheat
and corn. But these fields, some green,
some amber, in the wind, like waves,
pulse the rhythm of our heartland.
Silos stand as monuments to a simple
work ethic in praise of farmers,
in legacy of our country’s breadbasket.
I once was blind to this portrait
of America, but the Painter whispers to me
this morning: America the Beautiful.
Author’s Statement on Beauty
I see beauty in everything. It’s easy for the natural world to bear witness to this: the smell of rain, a bejeweled night sky, the way a fallen leaf curls on the ground. Even the physics of nature displays its beauty: the diffraction of waves on a rippled lake, the august sunset colors of a Rayleigh-scattered sky, the photochemistry of fireflies flashing their yellow green luciferin. But what about tragedy? Where is the beauty in that? Perhaps a paraphrasing of the Book of Lamentations will help: Though there’s sorrow through the night, joy comes in the morning. There is beauty even in death because I believe in life.
John C. Mannone has poems in Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, and Pedestal. He’s been awarded Weymouth writing residencies (2016, 2017) and has three poetry collections: Apocalypse (Alban Lake Publishing, July 2015), nominated for the 2017 Elgin Book Award; Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press, December 2015) featured at the 2016 Southern Festival of Books; and Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing, Spring 2017). He’s been nominated for several Pushcart and Rhysling awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other venues. He’s a retired physicist near Knoxville, TN. Visit http://jcmannone.wordpress.com