The Works of John C. Mannone
John C. Mannone, nominated three times for the Pushcart, has work in Raven Chronicles, Synaesthesia, 3Elements Review, The Baltimore Review, Prime Mincer, Pirene’s Fountain, The Pedestal, Tipton Poetry Journal, Bloomsbury, Bethany House and others. He’s the 2013 Rhysling Chair, the poetry editor for Silver Blade and Abyss & Apex, an adjunct professor of physics, and a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador for TN. Visit The Art of Poetry at http://jcmannone.wordpress.com.
All Poems © John C. Mannone
She advanced cloaked in shadows
From the dawn, took him by the limb
Kissed him gently at first under her veil
I saw the sun fiercely osculate the moon
Yet her passion totally eclipsed his fire
He laid his purple crown at her feet.
They plunged into the flood—
seekers, their schooners gliding
through golden prairie grass,
their dishpan faces rattled
while fixed on wealthy dreams.
What turned them
into nightmares? The monotony
of poverty? Perhaps it was
metal fume fever, the maddening
from mercury used to extort gold
from ore in the mother load, or
was it simply avarice?
Didn’t they know that
‘all that glitters is not gold’?
After they rushed,
new towns burgeoned
but now are full of ghosts
and weeds, just like that
old man predicted.
Boothill’s full of gunslingin’
cowboys with one too many
tumbles with the Law.
But the tin badges, too,
they tarnished in the dust,
all their eyes shut under weight
of greed heavier than gold.
Saloon girls never blushed,
pianos grinding with them
fiddles like advancing storms
of strung out intentions.
They’d blow the cowboys
right off their barstools
and out their boots — whirlwinds
of seduction, one-nighters. Cheap
perfume didn’t sanitize
the lust or the cruel glitter
in their eyes.
I slurp the rest
of the amber beer, gold
froth disappearing down
the sides of glass.
I toss a coin
on the wooden bar,
watch it twirl, for a moment
it catches bar light & flickers
Outside, an eerie light — the sun
a gold medallion
illumines the tombstones
their shadows digging
deep into the afternoon.
What if the night were washed of stars?
Where would all the ancient poets be
with just the sun, the moon, but not the stars?
Job wouldn’t see Arcturus and his sons
guide the flock of stars nor see the great Orion
loose his gilded belt or star-studded hilt
of sword. He wouldn’t see the crooked serpents
writhe high through sky or see the scorpion
skitter at his heel. Invisible they’d be—lost
in granulated dark, in lofted desert glare.
No stars there’d be to name,
no mazzaroth to paint on ensigns of ancient
Israelite armies. What would the wise men
contemplate to find their king? No pendant
burning dark Jerusalem skies. No songs
of angels when holy mother cradled child,
but starless-eyed, the dragon would slither
at her feet. Who could see to warn her?
Who could find their way without careening
constellations—helm’s wheel of heaven turns
to steer the sailors overseas and keep them safe
from time of storms? To help the farmers in
the work of days in hungry fields, their eyes
fixed also on the Pleiades to know the time
to sow and reap? If the skies were light-washed,
then Whitman would not speak of it, no
learn’d astronomer to ponder wisdom
of the universe. No eremite in Keats’ or Byron’s
poem to spout of stellar temperatures. My God!
The physics of it all’d be lost, or found
perhaps, much later after fumbling in the murk
—no rosy fingered dawn to shed some light.
Not even Galileo would have seen the moons
of Jupiter. And I wonder if Newton would’ve
thought of stars and how they pulled together.
Or even Poe to write about their troubled light
that traveled since creation and hasn’t reached
our telescopes. We’d have to wait some more
for Einstein’s relativity and know our place
among the hapless night-washed stars. Gray
night could not have lustered diamonds
in the sky, their sparkle, lost, as in a dirty sea
—their drops of starlight sprayed, fell blindly
on the retinas of early Greeks (Hipparchus, too,
no need for a magnitude brightness scale).
For Struve & Bessel, no starlight speed to clock,
no parallax to measure lonely distances to stars.
But who would care?
Van Gogh? Or Theodore? Their French café
would have no starry night. No, not just Paris.
No Holst or Mozart to strum our hearts—no music
of the wandering stars. My Jupiter and Mars
in obfuscated skies. No light of stars, no psalms
of life or more Longfellow verse about the dark
and jeweled sky; no Yeats’ cloth of heaven.
And all the kisses you’d have missed. No stars
to count except the ones your eyes can shine.
The dimming of our hopes. What great legacies
will be lost—the symphonies, the art & science.
No stars to sing. How then can heaven declare
the glory when their silence fills the Earth?
Roots tether deciduous trees to forest floor,
branches thrust into sky. Leaves immerse
in sun, in clouds, coax rain from them
and drink it all. Lacy chlorophyll umbrellas
capture Sol—its smooth green pulled taught
over veins that course their blood charged
with energy. Breathe in wind, each leaf,
a windmill, soft stems pinioned to branch.
Air twists. Effortless waves of fleshy leaves,
thousands of them move worlds
with strength of giants. Our windmills
—arms stiff as oak; panels for palms—
poke the sun, rake the wind
with only green on its mechanical minds.