All posts by John C. Mannone

John C. Mannone has work in Artemis Journal, Poetry South, Blue Fifth Review, New England Journal of Medicine, Peacock Journal, Gyroscope Review, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, Wordgathering: Journal of Disability Poetry and Literature, Poetica: Journal of Contemporary Jewish Writing and others. He’s a Jean Ritchie Fellowship winner in Appalachian literature (2017) and served as Celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). He’s been nominated for Pushcart, Rhysling, Dwarf Stars and Best of the Net awards. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex, Silver Blade, and Liquid Imagination. He’s the president of the Chattanooga Writers’ Guild and a retired professor of physics in east TN. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com

National Day of Prayer – Poem by John C. Mannone

A very serious thing, this matter of prayer,
asking him for help to cope in such a miserable place—
I wish for one much better.

I could ask him to take me out, out of this rat race
to a better place, but I’m not ready to come to my end
just yet. But surely this home could be one of peace

where I can celebrate with family and friends,
but also with my enemies, who, for a moment
would not see me as their foe, not one whom I’d offend.

Let us pray for ceasefire from self-destructing bombardment;
including the hurtful words we hurl at each other. Let us pray more
to quell the road rage epithets when tailgated; for a patient

tongue when being cut-off in long cashier lines; or even before
entering that grocery’s parking lot, looking for “your” own
spot that’s snatched from you after circling the store.

Be thankful while you’re pulling hair and screaming. Don’t
lose your head, Christian, and take his name in vain,
while others literally lose theirs because they won’t.

We are much too smug, even as we speak, the ISIS blame
us. They, who are many, have desire to exterminating
us as if we are cockroaches—the infidel-insane.

Their insecticide so toxic it even burns the devil’s skin.
We don’t want the hatred that they carry, only love for one another.
Let us be guilty of that one infectious thing.

Cry out “Help us, O Lord” to look past the color
of a person’s skin, especially those among our pews.
A sad truth still: Sunday has the most segregated hour.

And no matter what denomination, there are way too few
churches not sitting mostly empty during the rest of the week.
I pray that they will all be filled to overflowing and renewed

with unity one day. Paul spoke of it: we should seek
to build one church, one faith, one baptism, worship one God above all.
What the devil are we doing? Why don’t we speak

out against it? Instead, we rush to preach good news to all
in distant worlds. Shouldn’t we ourselves revel in that news first,
here in this now-depraved country about to fall?

A country founded on the principles of God that once had thirst
for him. Perhaps this National Day of Prayer should be relabeled
as the Day for National Prayer. We, as a nation, for better or worse,

should be calling out his name for forgiveness. I am willing. And able
to thank him for my family of God, for his adopting me (a child only lost
in his love), for the way his love moves, for his stable

arms lifting me up. Even as I write these words, he fills, without cost
to me, my prevailing emptiness with his spirit and I see
how he lightens my lingering darkness, before it must flee, the most.

When I raise my eyes, I see the sky spill its bloody
ink of morning. I marvel at the glittering smiles of stars,
and hear the whole host of heaven in sacred melody

intone, Holy, holy, holy is the Lamb of God, the attar
of prayers incensing the throne. I say, How can my soul not praise You?
I am a nightingale and I will sound my sugar-throated song afar!

Even when the clouds bring tears, they wash me anew.
Rainbows splay their colors after the rains stopped pouring.
Every blade of grass catches the hope of sunlight with drops of dew.

Rumi once said that we, the seekers of truth, are searching
for the sun with a candle. All around us, His truth spills
yet we are blinded by our own light, our own discouraging.

All we have to do is look up, open our eyes, even as we swirl
in His dazzle. Let the wax melt from our eyes to see delight
—the light of stars, the light of heaven—to see the world

in a new refreshing. Look up to Him! See the bright
and morning star, with a prayer on your lips. Look, and feel the Light.

My stories are hungry – Poem by John C. Mannone

 

Man shall not live on bread alone
—Matthew 4:4

 

I took the little book out of the angel’s hand
and ate it, and in my mouth it was sweet as honey;
and when I had eaten it, my stomach was made bitter
—Revelation 10:10

 

An earthquake
                    ripped off
the thick mantle covering
of my heart, I opened the book
and fell into its pages of history.
I was devoured by the stories
when I saw Adam and his lovely
Eve in the Garden; no snakes
just a couple of trees.
                    One, a tall
spruce with the scent of pure
pine—the fragrance of prayer.
The other with golden quince,
quaked and rattled in the wind,
whispered promises. They heard
the naked truth and that story
swallowed them, too.
                    My soul
convulsed at the devil’s laughter
when he saw the Evergreen shed
its fascicles to cover them.
Before the storm, heaven cracked
and the sky spilled, now emptied
of His voice.
                    And the wind blew
the pages of the book in my hands
before I could read them, but
they sprayed rain on my face
and each word coated my lips.
I drank them in—the savor
of a better promise
seeping through: a wet rainbow
pressing on my tongue.
                    I could not utter a word,
but listened to the priests & prophets.
Every time they spoke, a scent of cedar,
of crushed pine, sifted through
along with their voices. Even John’s
locust & honey weren’t as sweet,
and bitterness settled in
at the same time. My heart
started to melt as wax
and my blood ached, burned,
oozing like lava.
                    Yet, I was still
hungry, and I ate more
of the stories until I ingested
the flesh of my own thoughts
from a cup put to my lips,
                    for a moment,
for only the briefest moment,
before that scent of pine purged
the vile dregs from my mouth.
I did not want to eat that
story. But a holy wind blew
me deeper into the pages to a place
on a hill. The smell of pine
now heavier on my nose. There,
the parchment stained & torn.
                    I wept as I tried to read.
I could not see the words,
for my eyes were blurred
in the rain—a scarlet rain
washing me and all
the bitterness I had tasted.
And when it was finished…
the sky wasn’t broken anymore.

A Christmas Drama – by John C. Mannone

Four Contemporaneous Scenes

        I. The Inn

Torchlights singe the late night air and the kicked-up dust glows on the path to the inn. A man in a brown robe leads the donkey, each step measured. His wife, wrapped in a wool shawl, stays the autumn chill. For a moment, she must stop, grips the nape of the donkey’s neck, and winces, as before, bracing for the next contraction. He steadies her, wonders if Mary’s okay. She relaxes her hold and smiles, but the harvest moon glinting off her eyes belies her calm assurance. As sure as ebb and flow, the next wave of pain cannot be quelled—her hands pressing her belly as if to stem the tide. Joseph’s feet, no longer downtrodden by fatigue, rush him to the inn. He raps on the oaken door as if his fists were made of brass. But his own would have him not. Go Away! A gruff voice rumbles through the wood. There are no more rooms. Those words echo in the desperate air with Mary’s cries. Yet, there is a shuffle of shoes. A clenched-jaw voice on the other side of the door seeps through, Jacob. Let them in! The innkeeper’s eyes wedge, Yes, Eliana. She stokes the fire, pots clacking on the coals. Water boils. He shows them to the straw-crib behind the house, where the sheep lay.

Continue reading A Christmas Drama – by John C. Mannone

The Light in the Room – Poem by John C. Mannone

Capernaum, 30 AD
Peter’s house

Four men shuffle their sandals down the dirt
and camel-dunged road bearing their friend
warped with palsy on stretched, brown cloth.

They press through crowds standing dead
in their way to the mud brick dwelling—doorway
glutted with the sick, windows gasping sultry air.

On the roof, fig trees faint, grapes grovel for cool
moist dirt. Overgrown, the garden guards entrance
to the room beneath a straw-hatched door.

Inside the house, the Healer moves among
the sick, and the frankincense of his garment
breezes the air. Radiance spills from his hem,

a cooling glow dispels fever. Thy cluster near him.
Above, the palsied man, held up by the strong
faith of his friends, waits for his touch—for the Light.

Afflicted eyes clear, cataracts fall like dead scales.
Twisted limbs grow straight as the green shoot
seeking the high sun. Obscure spirits flee.

When he is done well into the middle of night,
he goes to pray in the cool of the garden among
fig trees and vines, now lifting high in his light.

In the mauve of dawn, the fishing village is quiet,
boats bob in the ebb, and black basalt cliffs shadow
nets laying empty after sieving the platinum sea
…but only for a little while.

~~~
Near Capernaum, 2030 AD
Ziv Medical Center (Bar-Ilan University)

A man lies on a gurney, in tremors from paralysis,
waits for the good doctor to touch him with his hands,
with instruments that will bring him some comfort.

His wife and children at his side, the sweet
fragrance of prayer mixes with a hint of sea
masking the sterile wisps of antiseptics.

The physicians, gathered in a small room
before their rounds, quietly praise the Healer,
seek his guidance from a shelf full of books—

Gray’s Anatomy, Principles of Biochemistry by White,
black binders with New England Journal of Medicine,
all stacked on leather of the Torah—the scent

of Jehovah Rapha rising from its pages, faith
incandescing the darkness. The light in the room
is not dim.

___________________________________________________________________
Author’s Note: Inspired by the healing of the man with palsy—a paralysis, especially that which is accompanied by involuntary tremors—in the Bible (Mark 2:1-5). Peter’s house was likely excavated by Italian archeologists (Biblical Archaeology Review 8:6, November/December 1982). Also see Bible History Daily https://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/biblical-archaeology-sites/the-house-of-peter-the-home-of-jesus-in-capernaum/

Baltimore 1968 – Poem by John C. Mannone

After Dudley Randall

“Oh, Mother, I’ll be fine today.
I’m just going to see my friend, Pat.
Don’t worry, I’ll be home by eight.
Please don’t forget to feed my cat.”

“Be careful, Son, a storm is coming—
clouds of black men are on the rise.
They have chains and clubs, and crying
anger from their blood-shot eyes.”

~~~~~~~

Continue reading Baltimore 1968 – Poem by John C. Mannone

Five Stones – Poem by John C. Mannone

Clear water plunges through the sandstone basin,
tumbles over lead-gray limestone. Fragments worn
smooth, edges rounded.

He stands amidst the stream, surveys the bottom
between the ripples all the way to where the sky
edges the water’s mirror. He kneels in the stream bed,
rifles for pebbles matching caliber of the sling-pocket
of his leather-thronged catapult. His fingers search,

Continue reading Five Stones – Poem by John C. Mannone