|Allen, R. A.
|Baker, J. D.
|Bartlett, Daniel C.
|Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
|Burke, Wayne F.
|Campbell, J. J.
|Centorbi, David Calogero
|Crist, Kenneth James
|Davis, Michael D.
|De Neve, M. A.
|Dillon, John J.
|Dunham, T. Fox
|Fagan, Brian Peter
|Fortier, M. L.
|Greenberg, KJ Hannah
|Holt, M. J.
|Irwin, Daniel S.
|Karl, Frank S.
|Larsen, Ted R.
|Le Due, Richard
|Lucas, Gregory E.
|Mannone, John C.
|Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
|Owen, Deidre J.
|Reddick, Niles M.
|Reutter, G. Emil
|Ross, Gary Earl
|Rowland, C. A.
|Sesling, Zvi E.
|Slota, Richelle Lee
|Smith, Elena E.
|Snethen, Daniel G.
|Taylor, J. M.
|Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
|Turner, Lamont A.
|Waldman, Dr. Mel
|Weil, Lester L.
|Williams, E. E.
|Williams, K. A.
|Zumpe, Lee Clark
The Lamp Filament
At the scene by the dark countryside, summer flies hang
in the feculent
heat—no skid marks—a ‘98 Ford Escort
left the road, tumbled down a steep embankment,
inverted on limestone rocks. Officers bag the driver’s
for the morgue. It seems the LA female fell asleep,
lost control. The car didn’t
explode as in the movies.
coroner says the time of death, which later coincides
with what witnesses said when they noticed the time
the victim’s car
left her home. But something isn’t right.
I study her body and effects more closely,
Rosemary Collins—a friend I dated twenty years
ago during my college days. Rose was always careful, sensible.
reveals she was three months pregnant.
shows no alcohol, no drugs
neck was broken; bruises and contusions
her face. One might argue that it happened
car crashed causing blunt force trauma,
well as the cervical fractures to her neck, but
suspect foul play. Susan, the victim’s sister,
said Rose argued with Steven Holder, a guy she was with
who forced himself on
her a few months earlier.
in tears, refused his wanting her to abort
Susan about the rape, the splitting-up,
the promise to tell everyone what he had done.
practice would be ruined as a trauma
for rape victims, now a perp himself.
would establish motive. On the night
the accident, she was likely followed by Holder
the outskirts of town where he planned to kill her,
he had a shaky alibi but
the police couldn’t place him there.
back to the accident site later in the daylight,
ponder the wreckage, search for clues remaining silent:
The afternoon sun glances
through the trees, catches
reflector in the taillight. I lull in the red glints,
the complex physics of a simple light bulb.
about those electrons in conduction bands
filaments—the glow of blackbody radiation
that Newton’s physics cannot explain but that quantum
physics of Planck and Einstein could.
to the lab juggling equations. Chemical
metallurgical analysis of the wire confirms
deposits—oxides and nitrides
tungsten and molybdenum—are insufficient
resistive failure of the filament. The coil
not breached, but deformed by impact
of the 3000-degree-Kelvin-hot wire.
the contrary, a cold coil would’ve suffered
brittle fracture on impact. The brake lights
been burning bright at the time of impact.
saw him coming, furious. When he slammed
her, she broke hard to keep from going over the ledge,
couldn’t stop the fall. No guardrail.
burned rubber could be left on the gravel.
after the car wreck, he must have bludgeoned her
with a hammer because the wreckage couldn’t
have killed her that way.
Microscopic chips of red paint
on the shattered plastic housing of the taillight
were consistent with the make and model
GM cars like Holder drives. A search warrant issued,
confirms the paint came from his car.
is arrested and convicted because a simple
bulb filament has shed light on the dark
by John C.
The detective stands confident, sure,
cap brimming eyes, smoldering
pipe in hand; pulls the
cuff of his coat
tight to stay the dawn chill. Cemetery
stirs. And wind ruffles the fallen
leaves; sun, too angry
to sift through
the fog, to shine on the marble stone
with the name of the thug who
lunged at the young girl
with a knife
simply to scare her into his Skylark car.
heavy-footed moves set the fates:
the imbalance, the
stumbling over rocks,
the piercing of her little heart, the rush
screamless air from her lungs. Death
by this thief, who
had remained invisible
to society all his life, now made apparent
intents, his heart shriveled, hatred
blinding him in
his own reflection. His
mother, whom he had tried to please
bringing this small child to her,
would have stirred
the ground where
she lay loosing her ashes to the wind.
there’s only her charred remains
left to cry for
her son. And the hounds
howl in the distance hungry for fox.
The detective shakes his head, blares
Even deranged fathers are sly
thieves that try to hide
truth. He stokes
his pipe, turns to the other tombstone,
that the crocus will bloom
on the little girl’s
gravesite; the sun will
smile, and the fog will brush its muted
on the marble stone.
Glint of Steel
John C. Mannone
A few cinders poofed inside
the stone ring and charcoal ash flew up as dust-soot into the cold dawn.
Shriveled-up bacon draped the hickory limbs where they had once crackled over fire; ranch
coffee in aluminum pots, muddied with grounds, now tepid and abandoned; and blackberry
jam, crusted on half-bitten biscuits, stopped oozing on hardened crumbs long before noon.
And the flies swarmed.
Dew streaked the nylon tents in dead
calm air. Even the squirrels and the chickadees were quiet today. The last stand of virgin
timber stood silent. Only lizards stirred. The skinks scurried over the oak picnic tables—one
was covered over with yesterday’s newspaper.
The headline read that a suspect
in the Jamestown murders had escaped from the maximum security prison. One of the guards
was shiv’d through his neck. It was unwritten how he had managed that.
The escapee once told the
news media why he is the way he is, does what he does. “I used to think that I was
a serial killer, but I’m not; momma said so.” Witnesses said they saw him head
south toward the border, but he disappeared as a ghost.
By the woods north of town, seven teens from Grendel County High
had camped in the holler. Echoes of their cries still hung on tulip poplars and loblolly
pines. And those pines needled the air, scarlet dripping with the mist.
The sun rose with blood
on its hands and a glint of steel in its eyes.
John C. Mannone
At first, I thought someone painted
art on the bathroom wall—
threading with blue
on an off-white wall—a patriotic theme
I didn’t see the ink brushes the artist
might have left,
only blue-black ink
on the floor by the closet door cracked
Red seeping out. I didn’t see
the body stuffed
into that space; choked,
I couldn’t scream, or urinate and I had to
out of this bathroom now, tell someone,
the manager, the
police. I turned to rush out
but the door was locked. I started pounding
the door, yelling, “Let me out!”
A faucet, on full
hot, emptied itself
steaming the room. I fell to the floor,
enveloping me like vapor,
but a soft voice growing
in my ear said, Get up.
I awaken; crayon in my hand.
The apartment building
by John C. Mannone
the immigrants, it looks
outside with window-sagging eyes, no welcome
that’s not flipped on its back—silent side up.
At night, mother and child hear the wall mumble
their native tongue, warns them of looming
of their predecessors.
In the morning,
more of yellowing wallpaper
is torn from night’s anguish. It couldn’t
picture-less nails had sutured its mouth shut.
But the bedbugs spoke in Braille with a trail
welts, scratchy words proclaiming the blind
neglect of the
landlord. The wastebasket outside
his office cries
boisterously, but crumpled papers
inside rustle louder with their complaint:
disclosure forms about health code violations.
The mother doesn’t know. Her little girl simply
as she plays on the porch with the curling
paint chips that
also lullaby their own appealing
Her beautiful braided hair tight as a fist
blares the secret
of dangerously high levels of lead.
Even her grave cannot keep
Note: This is a speculative poem inspired by a ‘Forensic Files’ episode
February 21, 2021) In memoriam of Sunday
James Abek (1997-2000).
by John C. Mannone
Sky is still dark
with cracks of light
when we arrive at the river. Fog
mists the brackish
gray water and the amorphous shape
the harbor pylons
just as the informant said.
The charred remains
slap concrete; crabs latched to torso
We grapple her body, drag it
to shore and into a
her nose, mouth, tinted with blood,
her insides exploded
Probably tortured before her body
was cast into swift
ride to the morgue, silent, except
for the swish of puddled
by tire treads—a static hush, perhaps
a lament for this
Body bag crinkles when it’s unzipped.
lights, the conflagration
didn’t leave much more than pallor.
open, but taciturn. Only screams
of horror socket her
eyes. I hear it
as if it were my own child’s voice.
That night in my
bed, I lie still
unable to sleep, the stench
of bleach in my
nostrils, my hands
shriveled from scrubbing, scrubbing
clean the blood
that seeped out.
My own heart sutured by duty, my eyes
still burning from
what they’ve seen
and from the horror they have yet
Make Good Killers
by John C. Mannone
She’s completely relaxed
a dose of good sex
off under the silk
of satin sheets.
slips into the bathroom
looks into the hard mirror.
Years of medical practice
back through haggard eyes,
an emergency room
St. Christopher’s, the stress
of his own weak heart
and all the gambling
no other way
recover the money
owes to the mobster
bookies, not even prayer—
no absolution for foolishness
he gets whacked
by a couple
Deceit. She didn’t know
love could be
supplanted by Greed.
He didn’t either.
Maybe the insurance money
will assuage the guilt.
He removes the vial
from his medical bag,
barrel of the needle,
the air bubbles out.
in the soft yellow light,
his face pallor with fear
colorless as Sux—
paralytic muscle relaxant
for ease of intubation
of ventilators for his
seriously afflicted COVID
patients; his unsuspecting
leaves no trace
bends over his wife,
stutters a nearly silent
Hail Mary before
he injects, softly
kisses, and whispers,
his own thigh
give him a little time—
thirty minutes, maybe more
to clean up the crime scene
of heart, lungs
—before the visitation of death.
He leaves a note for his wife
eyes only]. Not a suicide
wouldn’t be able
collect the insurance.
Guido” it said: the amount
and directions. She didn’t
know they were going to
too. Naturally, his death
look like a heart attack,
for sure, this has broken
lies next to his beloved
He Wore a Purple
Heart Inside a Gray Uniform
John C. Mannone
After the Battle
of Antietam, September 17, 1862
had lost a lot of valiant blood and slips into shock. Medics carry him across the Potomac,
gray water rippling in a stiff breeze. That same bluster flaps the canvas of a field-tent
where the medics triage him; he waits in and out of sleep with an aching pain
in his arm. They move him to a makeshift hospital, a converted retail building
in a small West Virginia town, when the waning gibbous moon has barely risen
and the nighthawks begin their lament. The doctor, apron’d in blood, saunters
over to see him.
“Who you with, Corporal?”
“Thirteenth Virginia, Sir.” Will shifts his body trying
to ease his discomfort. “I survived the volleys in the West woods but took lead in
“That’s a nasty wound, Son.”
The doctor’s eyes betray his understatement that the nurse senses. She remains
silent and moves behind Will, who is lying on a stretcher; she shakes her head
almost imperceptibly from left to right, right to left, a few times. She had
seen that same look of fear in so many other young soldiers but none so
intensified as from those who had fought in Sharpsburg, which some call Antietam.
Will winces as the doctor probes his left arm. The uniform had been
cut away and the blood-soiled sleeve tossed in a bin with the other torn and tattered remnants
of uniforms darkened with blood. And in the other corner, there’s a pile of gangrenous
flesh and severed bone.
It’s a month later in mid to late November, and
Will, now an amputee, is on his way home. A medical discharge. He thinks out loud so he’ll
better remember when he writes his thoughts on paper:
I sink as I march through the woods; wish
the ground to swallow me. Musket smoke still hangs in my nostrils. I lift my eyes to pray,
and the air is crisp with sweet pawpaw leaves and syrup-colored maples. I see a
tanager in the pines; hear the oriole’s pure, liquid whistles, rich flute and
piccolo, flutter-drums of passion, and the beating of wings.
But the buzz
around those carcasses maggot my thoughts. I am running
now, away from there, away from the cornfields scattered with ears pressed to the ground;
hair silked with blood; bodies husked in gray and blue. I am running away from the fields
littered with death as I feel my own reaper close behind swinging his scythe. My arm already
severed to my shoulder bone; my limb thrown among the other arms and legs onto piles, only
its ghost remains to taunt me.
But today, I am coming home.
From afar, Will’s mother sees her son ambling through the fields.
She runs to him. With an awkward moment on how to embrace him with a missing arm, Will
throws his one good arm around his mother. He kisses her gently on the cheek.
missed you, Momma.”
“I’ve missed you, too, Will. Been
praying for this day; your coming home.”
Betty Lynn?” he says, his eyes growing wide.
here... I’m sorry, Son. She ran off and got married to a banker from Richmond.”
“We’ll talk more later.”
Momma. Tell me now.”
“She left a letter for you. I put it on
the dresser in your room.”
They both go into the house and Will works his
way up the loft to his old room. He sheds his backpack and undresses. He sees the letter,
but doesn’t open it. He just stares at it. It now made sense why he didn’t
receive any more letters from her after the first few months of his enlistment.
His side is hurting, so he fishes out some whiskey the doctor had given
him, then lies down for a moment. Trying hard to quell the cacophony of thoughts and assuage
the pain of loss, not just of his arm, he lies down on propped-up pillows, and takes another
swig, and falls into half-stirred dreams.
in his sleep; tosses, and ruffles sheets, writhes, his face distorting in the late afternoon
shadows of that bakery shop commandeered and converted to a hospital in
Shepherdstown, WV just across the Potomac. The narcotic-infused whiskey sloshes
with his delirium. And the cannon roars in the near distance of his nightmare
rattle his sore ribs from when he was thrown hard to the ground from the cannon blast
that shrapnel’d his arm. That laudanum-laced whiskey left a bad taste in his mouth
when they braced him for the saw. There would only be a slight dulling to the excruciation
of amputation. He yells out, “No. No, no!” as the tool razor-toothed into his
Will awakens to his own screams, beads of
sweat dripping fear all over his face; his shirt drenched.
mother, startled, comes running, a thin shawl draped over her shoulders. “Will!”
okay, Momma.” His voice perhaps is not very convincing. “It was just a bad
“Let me know if there’s anything
I can do for you, Son.”
“I will.” But even wide awake,
his nightmare continues.
Will sits up at the edge of his bed in the farmhouse
he grew up in trying to lose himself in childhood memories until the sun cracks the darkness.
As he hopes and dreams, he can see a few slants of gold light bleed in, the windowpane
transforming from black to the gray hue of morning, not quite blue. It’s a new day.
It’s Thanksgiving morning and the cock is crowing. Will jumps out of bed, throws
on some clothes, and scurries down to make breakfast with his mother.
The letter remains in shadows, unopened.
John C. Mannone has poems in Windhover, North Dakota Quarterly,
Poetry South, Baltimore Review, and others. Winner/Nominee of numerous contests/awards,
John edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and
other journals. He’s a retired physics professor living in Knoxville, Tennessee.
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