John C. Mannone | The last citadel


The sun’s heart pulses wildly now
glowing brighter, darker, brighter,
its fire-skin festooned with sunspots —
rupturing, spewing super flares
that will singe the cold black
on their way here. It won’t be long
before the sun bloats with fever, burning
land, homes; flashing oceans to steam.
No, it won’t be long before the sun steals
tomorrow. They will all die. Only a few of us
might get away. I hold my Eleanor close,
close my eyes for a moment as we pass Mars,
Earth, a pale blue dot through the portal.

I can’t see her anymore, lost in the red glare
but I’m still tempted to look toward my past
past the thin reflection of stars; of birth,
and of history; of unfinished wars
abruptly arbitrated by Nature. No winners.

I remember learning in school how the sun
is the giver of life. A partial truth. I tell my wife,
one final fling from Jupiter’s gravity. Saturn
still a year away. My heart, dysrhythmic
with expectation of a new future, a new unknown.

The remnant ships slip through the Saturn rings,
sail past the maelstrom and shepherding moons,
our new home looming into view. Orbit insertion
one hundred miles above the satellite Enceladus.
Sheer snow-curtains drape terrain. Warm oceans
beneath the crust geyser into frigid atmosphere.
But below the surface, inside volcano caves
warmed by pulsing oceans, there is paradise
to terraform. I imagine lush green, and mist.

Bulldozers manicure the land,
ash and clay yielding to steel
as I manipulate levers. Soon,
the talus piles fill with chips
of shale imprinted with bark
of giant spruce and club moss.
Eleanor scurries; with joy of discovery,
sifts through fossils.

She flinches, but is quiet.
I see her breathe heavy in the thin air,
laboring for the longest time
before she stands, turning toward me.
Steps aside. No smiles. Her eyes dilated.

I can see the pieces
of tank, the turrets and machine
gun barrels, and clips of ammunition
protruding from dirt. She, standing there,
hands outstretched clutching bits
of bone, clutching a human skull.


Skull in desert


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2 Responses to John C. Mannone | The last citadel

  1. Jean Zellweger April 7, 2015 at 7:45 pm #

    Powerful! putting into pictorial words some of the fears I have about the future of our world, of us. Maybe if enough or us read your poem,we can effect change before it’s too late. Thank you, Mr. Mannone

  2. Roger Lane September 16, 2017 at 6:10 am #

    Good read John! Now I know what’s going through your mind as you sit with your computer and a tall IPA. Apropos considering the loss of Cassini. I feel like I lost a friend. Well done my friend!

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