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
the road, tumbled down a steep embankment, and lay
inverted on limestone rocks. Officers bag the driver’s
for the morgue. It seems the LA female
control. The car didn’t explode as in
coroner says the time of death, which later coincides
what witnesses said when they noticed the time
victim’s car left her home. But something isn’t right.
study her body and effects more closely, learn
was Rosemary Collins—a friend I dated twenty years
during my college days. Rose was always careful, sensible.
autopsy reveals she was three months pregnant.
shows no alcohol, no drugs
her neck was broken; bruises and contusions
her face. One might argue that it happened
the car crashed causing blunt force trauma,
well as the cervical fractures to her neck, but
suspect foul play. Susan, the victim’s sister,
Rose argued with Steven Holder, a guy she was with
forced himself on her a few months earlier.
in tears, refused his wanting her to
abort the baby.
told Susan about the rape, the splitting-up,
the promise to tell everyone what he had done.
Holder’s practice would be ruined as a trauma
for rape victims, now a perp himself.
fear would establish motive. On the night
the accident, she was likely followed by Holder
the outskirts of town where he planned to kill her,
had a shaky alibi but the police couldn’t
place him there.
flash back to the accident site later in the daylight,
the wreckage, search for clues remaining silent:
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
tungsten filaments—the glow of blackbody radiation
Newton’s physics cannot explain but that quantum
physics of Planck
and Einstein could.
head to the lab juggling equations. Chemical
metallurgical analysis of the wire confirms
multicolored deposits—oxides and nitrides
tungsten and molybdenum—are insufficient
warrant 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
fracture on impact. The brake lights
have been burning bright at the time of impact.
likely 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
a hammer because the wreckage couldn’t
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
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
KJ Hannah Greenberg has been playing
with words and images for an awfully long time. Check out her poetry and art book, One-Handed Pianist (Hekate