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.

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 has three poetry collections, including Flux Lines (Celtic Cat Publishing) forthcoming in 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

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