Ursa Major

1 Mannone illo

John C. Mannone

Ursa Major


The Big Dipper is really Santa’s sled

freewheeling around the North Pole

through frosty stars and a red nosed

bear taking pointers from Rudolf as

his reins arc to a super giant red-eye

star, coursing through the circumpolar

tinsel of stars, a garland of firelights,

but avoiding the unwinding glittering

coil of that dragon, Draco, whose cold

aspic heart, Thuban, thumps the night,


but it’s a certain Santa & his Bears

who bring all those stardust wishes

full of hope sifted from a special star

that’s twinkling in the silent night.


John C. Mannone has poems and prose in literary and speculative venues such as Pedestal, Peacock Journal, Event Horizon Magazine, Gyroscope Review, New England Journal of MedicineInscape Literary Journal, Windhover, and Baltimore Review. He’s been awarded a 2016 Weymouth writing residency and has two literary poetry collections, including one on disability, Disabled Monsters (The Linnet’s Wings Press, Dec 2015) featured at the 28th Southern Festival of Books. He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex (as well as for Silver Blade and Liquid Imagination). He’s a college professor of physics in east Tennessee. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart three times. Visit http://jcmannone.wordpress.com

Author’s Notes: It occurred to me that Santa’s sled and reindeer could fit the outline of the Big Dipper, and to the best of my knowledge, this is an original concept.

In the Nordic tradition, it’s a wagon. So in that spirit, a drawn sled is consistent with that image. And with Santa, being in the North Pole, it is fitting that the sled points to the North Star, Polaris [the two pointer stars—Dubhe (Arabic for bear) and Merak (Arabic for loins of the bear)—are aligned with the back of the sled]. Polaris is actually a variable star, so I imagine that this pulsating variable could have undergone a catastrophic perturbation which caused it to suddenly shine brightly, as if the Star of Bethlehem. (I know a great deal about stellar dynamics, so this conjecture is pure science fiction.) The Big Dipper is a circumpolar constellation, which means it revolves around the pole star, so it is visible throughout the night. But I love the symbolism of making the pole star the Star of Bethlehem. Santa Claus, that benevolent gift-giver to children (and aren’t we all children at heart when we cut away the impurities?) travels all around the world while always pointing to that bright and shining star.

In star-hopping lingo, we use the Big Dipper handle stars to locate a red supergiant—“arc to Arcturus”—a convenient proxy for the guiding red light. In the image, there’s poetic license because Arcturus would not be that close to the Big Dipper, nor would it be glowing that big and that bright!

Also not shown in the image is another circumpolar constellation, Draco, whose brightest star, Thuban, is the serpentine dragon’s heart. It is in contradistinction to the goodness implied by the Star of Bethlehem. Of course, the allusion at the end of the poem to that wonderful German hymn, “Silent Night,” has special seasonal significance for some beyond the peaceful gift giving.

(Special thanks to Camille Alvey who so nicely produced the image with the help of Pixlr.)

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