Yellow Mama Archives II

John C. Mannone

Home
Acuff, Gale
Ahern, Edward
Allen, R. A.
Alleyne, Chris
Andes, Tom
Arnold, Sandra
Aronoff, Mikki
Ayers, Tony
Baber, Bill
Baird, Meg
Baker, J. D.
Balaz, Joe
Barker, Adelaide
Barker, Tom
Barnett, Brian
Barry, Tina
Bartlett, Daniel C.
Bayly, Karen
Beckman, Paul
Bellani, Arnaav
Berriozabal, Luis Cuauhtemoc
Beveridge, Robert
Blakey, James
Booth, Brenton
Bracken, Michael
Burke, Wayne F.
Burnwell, Otto
Campbell, J. J.
Cancel, Charlie
Capshaw, Ron
Carr, Steve
Carrabis, Joseph
Cartwright, Steve
Centorbi, David Calogero
Cherches, Peter
Christensen, Jan
Clifton, Gary
Cody, Bethany
Costello, Bruce
Coverly, Harris
Crist, Kenneth James
Cumming, Scott
Davie, Andrew
Davis, Michael D.
Degani, Gay
De Neve, M. A.
Dillon, John J.
Dinsmoor, Robert
Dominguez, Diana
Dorman, Roy
Doughty, Brandon
Doyle, John
Dunham, T. Fox
Ebel, Pamela
Fagan, Brian Peter
Fillion, Tom
Fortier, M. L.
Fowler, Michael
Galef, David
Garnet, George
Garrett, Jack
Graysol, Jacob
Grech, Amy
Greenberg, KJ Hannah
Grey, John
Hagerty, David
Hardin, Scott
Held, Shari
Hicks, Darryl
Hivner, Christopher
Hoerner, Keith
Hohmann, Kurt
Holt, M. J.
Holtzman, Bernard
Holtzman, Bernice
Hopson, Kevin
Hubbs, Damon
Irwin, Daniel S.
Jabaut, Mark
Jermin, Wayne
Jeschonek, Robert
Johns. Roger
Kanner, Mike
Karl, Frank S.
Kempe, Lucinda
Kennedy, Cecilia
Keshigian, Michael
Kitcher, William
Kompany, James
Kondek, Charlie
Koperwas, Tom
Kreuiter, Victor
Larsen, Ted R.
Le Due, Richard
Leotta, Joan
Lester, Louella
Lubaczewski, Paul
Lucas, Gregory E.
Luer, Ken
Lukas, Anthony
Lyon, Hillary
Mannone, John C.
Margel, Abe
Martinez, Richard
McConnell, Logan
McQuiston, Rick
Middleton, Bradford
Milam, Chris
Mladinic, Peter
Mobili, Juan
Mullins, Ian
Myers, Beverle Graves
Myers, Jen
Nielsen, Ayaz Daryl
Nielsen, Judith
Onken, Bernard
Owen, Deidre J.
Park, Jon
Parker, Becky
Pettus, Robert
Plath, Rob
Prusky, Steve
Radcliffe, Paul
Reddick, Niles M.
Reedman, Maree
Reutter, G. Emil
Riekki, Ron
Robson, Merrilee
Rollins, Janna
Rose, Brad
Rosmus, Cindy
Ross, Gary Earl
Rowland, C. A.
Saier, Monique
Sarkar, Partha
Scharhag, Lauren
Schauber, Karen
Schildgen, Bob
Schmitt, Di
Sesling, Zvi E.
Short, John
Simpson, Henry
Slota, Richelle Lee
Smith, Elena E.
Snell, Cheryl
Snethen, Daniel G.
Steven, Michael
Stoler, Cathi
Stoll, Don
Surkiewicz, Joe
Swartz, Justin
Taylor, J. M.
Temples. Phillip
Traverso Jr., Dionisio "Don"
Turner, Lamont A.
Tustin, John
Tyrer, DJ
Varghese, Davis
Verlaine, Rp
Viola, Saira
Waldman, Dr. Mel
Weibezahl, Robert
Weil, Lester L.
Weld, Charles
White, Robb
Wilhide, Zachary
Williams, E. E.
Williams, K. A.
Wilsky, Jim
Wiseman-Rose, Sophia
Woods, Jonathan
Young, Mark
Zackel, Fred
Zelvin, Elizabeth
Zeigler, Martin
Zimmerman, Thomas
Zumpe, Lee Clark

The Lamp Filament

 

by John C. Mannone

 

 

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, and lay

inverted on limestone rocks. Officers bag the driver’s

 

body for the morgue. It seems the LA female fell asleep,

lost control. The car didn’t explode as in the movies.

 

The 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, learn

 

she was Rosemary Collins—a friend I dated twenty years

ago during my college days. Rose was always careful, sensible.

 

                             ~

 

The autopsy reveals she was three months pregnant.

Toxicology shows no alcohol, no drugs

 

but her neck was broken; bruises and contusions

on her face. One might argue that it happened

 

when the car crashed causing blunt force trauma,

as well as the cervical fractures to her neck, but

 

detectives 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.

She, in tears, refused his wanting her to abort the baby.

 

Rose told Susan about the rape, the splitting-up,

and the promise to tell everyone what he had done.

 

Dr. Holder’s practice would be ruined as a trauma

psychologist for rape victims, now a perp himself.

 

That fear would establish motive. On the night

of the accident, she was likely followed by Holder

 

to the outskirts of town where he planned to kill her,

he had a shaky alibi but the police couldn’t place him there.

 

                             ~

 

I flash 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

the reflector in the taillight. I lull in the red glints,

 

remember the complex physics of a simple light bulb.

Something about those electrons in conduction bands

 

of tungsten filaments—the glow of blackbody radiation

that Newton’s physics cannot explain but that quantum

                             physics of Planck and Einstein could.

 

                             ~

 

I head to the lab juggling equations. Chemical

and metallurgical analysis of the wire confirms

 

the multicolored deposits—oxides and nitrides

of tungsten and molybdenum—are insufficient

 

to warrant resistive failure of the filament. The coil

was not breached, but deformed by impact

 

acceleration of the 3000-degree-Kelvin-hot wire.

On the contrary, a cold coil would’ve suffered

brittle fracture on impact. The brake lights

must have been burning bright at the time of impact.

 

She likely saw him coming, furious. When he slammed

into her, she broke hard to keep from going over the ledge,

 

but couldn’t stop the fall. No guardrail.

No burned rubber could be left on the gravel.

 

Moments 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

found on the shattered plastic housing of the taillight

 

assembly were consistent with the make and model

of GM cars like Holder drives. A search warrant issued,

 

forensics confirms the paint came from his car.

He is arrested and convicted because a simple

 

light bulb filament has shed light on the dark

                                                   killer.



Like Sherlock Holmes

 

by John C. Mannone

 

 

The detective stands confident, sure,

tweed cap brimming eyes, smoldering

pipe in hand; pulls the cuff of his coat

tight to stay the dawn chill. Cemetery

grass stirs. And wind ruffles the fallen

leaves; sun, too angry to sift through

the fog, to shine on the marble stone

etched with the name of the thug who

lunged at the young girl with a knife

simply to scare her into his Skylark car.

His heavy-footed moves set the fates:

the imbalance, the stumbling over rocks,

the piercing of her little heart, the rush

of screamless air from her lungs. Death

by this thief, who had remained invisible

to society all his life, now made apparent

his intents, his heart shriveled, hatred

blinding him in his own reflection. His

mother, whom he had tried to please

by bringing this small child to her,

would have stirred the ground where

she lay loosing her ashes to the wind.

But 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

out: Even deranged fathers are sly

thieves that try to hide truth. He stokes

his pipe, turns to the other tombstone,

whispers that the crocus will bloom

on the little girl’s gravesite; the sun will

smile, and the fog will brush its muted

watercolors on the marble stone.



A Glint of Steel

 

by

 

                                               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.




 

 

 

 

Abstract Art

 

by John C. Mannone

 

 

At first, I thought someone painted

abstract art on the bathroom wall—

blood-red blotches threading with blue

on an off-white wall—a patriotic theme

but I didn’t see the ink brushes the artist

might have left, only blue-black ink

on the floor by the closet door cracked

open. Red seeping out. I didn’t see

the body stuffed into that space; choked,

I couldn’t scream, or urinate and I had to

get out of this bathroom now, tell someone,

the manager, the police. I turned to rush out

but the door was locked. I started pounding

on the door, yelling, “Let me out!”

A faucet, on full hot, emptied itself

steaming the room. I fell to the floor,

horror enveloping me like vapor,

but a soft voice growing louder

in my ear said, Get up. Get up!

          I awaken; crayon in my hand.



The apartment building

 

by John C. Mannone

 

 

doesn’t welcome the immigrants, it looks

outside with window-sagging eyes, no welcome

mat that’s not flipped on its back—silent side up.

 

At night, mother and child hear the wall mumble

in their native tongue, warns them of looming

nightmares—voices of their predecessors.

 

In the morning, more of yellowing wallpaper

is torn from night’s anguish. It couldn’t speak,

picture-less nails had sutured its mouth shut.

 

But the bedbugs spoke in Braille with a trail

of 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: forged

disclosure forms about health code violations.

 

The mother doesn’t know. Her little girl simply

sings as she plays on the porch with the curling

paint chips that also lullaby their own appealing

 

sweetness. Her beautiful braided hair tight as a fist

blares the secret of dangerously high levels of lead.

Even her grave cannot keep it quiet.

 

__________________________________________________________________

Author’s Note: This is a speculative poem inspired by a ‘Forensic Files’ episode

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5T-_b0HBGmw (accessed February 21, 2021) In memoriam of Sunday James Abek (1997-2000).



Disinfected

 

by John C. Mannone

 

Sky is still dark with cracks of light

when we arrive at the river. Fog

from after-rain mists the brackish

gray water and the amorphous shape

floating between the harbor pylons

 

just as the informant said.

The charred remains sloshes, waves

slap concrete; crabs latched to torso

clawing remnants of breast—someone’s

lover, someone’s daughter.

 

We grapple her body, drag it

to shore and into a plastic bag:

her nose, mouth, tinted with blood,

her insides exploded from flames.

Probably tortured before her body

 

was cast into swift water.

The ride to the morgue, silent, except

for the swish of puddled rain entrained

by tire treads—a static hush, perhaps

a lament for this young woman.

 

Body bag crinkles when it’s unzipped.

Under fluorescent lights, the conflagration

didn’t leave much more than pallor. Mouth

gaped 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 to see.




Doctors Make Good Killers

 

by John C. Mannone

 

She’s completely relaxed

after a dose of good sex

 

and nods off under the silk

touch of satin sheets.

 

He slips into the bathroom

looks into the hard mirror.

 

Years of medical practice

stare back through haggard eyes,

 

through the trauma

of an emergency room

 

at St. Christopher’s, the stress

of his own weak heart

 

and all the gambling

of his career. Literally.

 

There’s no other way

to recover the money

 

he owes to the mobster

bookies, not even prayer—

 

no absolution for foolishness

before he gets whacked

 

by a couple of goons.

Desperation is always

 

a poor accomplice

of Deceit. She didn’t know

 

that love could be

supplanted by Greed.

 

He didn’t either.

 

Maybe the insurance money

will assuage the guilt.

 

He removes the vial

of succinylcholine

 

from his medical bag,

draws the solution

 

into the barrel of the needle,

squirts the air bubbles out.

 

The needle gleams

in the soft yellow light,

 

his face pallor with fear

but as colorless as Sux—

 

an affectionate name for

the paralytic muscle relaxant

 

used for ease of intubation

of ventilators for his

 

seriously afflicted COVID

patients; his unsuspecting wife.

 

A perfect poison

that leaves no trace

 

quickly breaking down

into natural chemistry.

 

He bends over his wife,

stutters a nearly silent

 

Hail Mary before

he injects, softly

 

kisses, and whispers,

“Please forgive me.”

 

He plunges the syringe

into his own thigh

 

to give him a little time—

thirty minutes, maybe more

 

to clean up the crime scene

before visceral congestion,

 

before severe pulmonary

edema, before petechial

 

hemorrhaging of heart, lungs

—before the visitation of death.

 

He leaves a note for his wife

[for her eyes only]. Not a suicide

 

lest she wouldn’t be able

to collect the insurance.

 

“Pay Guido” it said: the amount

and directions. She didn’t

 

know they were going to kill

her, too. Naturally, his death

 

will look like a heart attack,

for sure, this has broken

                   his heart.

 

He lies next to his beloved

and sleeps.


 

 

He Wore a Purple Heart Inside a Gray Uniform

 

John C. Mannone

 

After the Battle of Antietam, September 17, 1862

                       

 

Will 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 the Cornfields.”

“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.

          “I’ve missed you, Momma.”

          “I’ve missed you, too, Will. Been praying for this day; your coming home.”

          “Where’s Betty Lynn?” he says, his eyes growing wide.

          “She’s not here... I’m sorry, Son. She ran off and got married to a banker from Richmond.”

          “She what?”

          “We’ll talk more later.”

          “No, 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.

Will mumbles 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 flesh.

Will awakens to his own screams, beads of sweat dripping fear all over his face; his shirt drenched.

          His mother, startled, comes running, a thin shawl draped over her shoulders. “Will!”

          “I’m okay, Momma.” His voice perhaps is not very convincing. “It was just a bad dream.”

          “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.

 

THE END

 


Elementary Classes

 

by John C. Mannone

 

I was looking for a bus, train, or a plane to take

a picture of for a basic photography class when

a row of buses popped into view as in a photo-

shoot for a magazine cover, glossy in the after rain,

gleaming lead-chromate-yellow; parked on asphalt

puddles reflecting the end of the day—fire red sky

from a setting sun; wisps of steamy mist hovering.

 

It’s summer, but some kids won’t be swimming

or picnicking. But no more bullies, or homework,

no more detention, or recess, no more teachers

or overprotective parents. These children were

sadly expelled from their classrooms because

of gunmen-boys who cut them short, too short

to ever reach the school bus steps again. Now,

 

the gray-green leather seats remain empty

but for the quiet ghosts of children resting

in the liminal shadows.

 

 

In memory of the children lost to gun violence at Sandy Hook, Rancho Tehama, Robb Elementary schools, and many others since Columbine.



Rage

 

by John C. Mannone

 

Wounded, she emptied six slugs

into the thug’s chest; rage stoked

his adrenaline and he continued

with resolve, stumbled closer

to her wielding a long kitchen knife.

Lunging a quick thrust of her thick

serrated blade before she collapsed

her stance, she swung around, kicked

and screamed in a wild rage—

a martial arts maneuver of flying

foot to head, blood spraying, spilling

on the floor. The raucous cries

of the .38 special had awakened

her own adrenaline, pumping.

The momentary silence broken

by a six-year-old’s plaintive sobs,

“Is everything alright, Mommy?

I heard the noise; I’m scared.”

She hugs her daughter close

to her heart, whispers in her ear,

“Yes, baby, everything is fine.

It was just the boogieman . . .

but he won’t be coming back.

Ever.”



Comfort Zone

 

by John C. Mannone

 

I’m considered the best, but I never want to be too comfortable. I want the hairs on the back of my neck to stand straight out into dry air when it stirs. I want my Polaroid sunglasses to screen out any glare I might have but I never want to be too comfortable that they’ll hide the quiver in my eyes. I never want to be so comfortable that I’ll get lost in the static hiss of my thoughts and cannot hear the whisper of birds, or the soft shuffle of shoes on a carpet. I never want to be too comfortable that I only taste the wine, and not the sweat hiding under my shirt; my palms too smooth with confidence. I never want to be so comfortable that I cannot smell his fear but comfortable enough that he cannot smell mine before the silenced lead pierces his skull.


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.

 

http://jcmannone.wordpress.com

https://www.facebook.com/jcmannone/







Site Maintained by Fossil Publications