Introduction to Poetry, Issue 77

Introduction to Poetry, Issue 77

Please enjoy the slate of innovative poets kicking off 2021—a year, I pray, will be healthy, and productive for all y’all:

“After the Singularity, the Programmer Goes for a Walk” by Stephanie Yue Duhem (Austin, Texas)

“Web Breaker” by Lisa Creech Bledsoe (Creston, North Carolina)

“Apnea” by Oliver Smith (Cheltenham, United Kingdom)

“Blue Planet, 1990” by Elizabeth J. Coleman (New York, New York)

“Nykken” by Nikoline Kaiser (Aarhus, Denmark)

“The Wound Beautiful” by Elizabeth Kirkpatrick-Vrenios (Mendocino, California)

“One day, they say I will fly. But not today” by Babo Kamel (Venice, Florida)

“The Beasts Are Gods” by RK Rugg (Canton, Massachusetts)

“Tweetstorm” by Louis B. Rosenberg (San Luis Obispo, California)

It is a tradition for Abyss & Apex to begin the New Year with a seasonal poem. And for most of my time as poetry editor, it has been written and donated by me. My speculative seasonal poems often blend with spiritual concepts. Here is science fiction-fantasy poem called “Space Mission” for 2021.

– John C. Mannone


John C. Mannone

Space Mission

In cosmic silence, we slip through the void,
dark matter bunching galactic filaments
like gold-spun fibers in a sacred shroud.
Inside each galaxy, stars cluster so densely
that their white-hot glitters blind.
Our spacecraft, Pegasus, corrals the stars
with the same determination
    our forefathers had, who rode horses
    from one country cabin to another
    —riding circuits in the wilderness—
    bringing church “on the fly”
to declare the glories of all the heavens
and to proclaim their creator, our creator.
No wormholes for propulsion,
just interdimensional folding of space-time,
ts entanglement hurtling us from here
to the other side of the galaxy
to the Delta sector of NGC 4302
spiraling in Virgo cluster like the grand
Milky Way—fifty-five million light-years
from Sol yet taking only six months
of space flight, while our prayers,
thick as nebulae, cotton the atmosphere
in the vessel as we approach a yellow
dwarf star, its rocky planet blue
         with oceans like ours.
Beings on the extragalactic exoplanet
have been expecting us. Their leader
tells of her dreams into our translators,
how she knew that aliens would come
with medicine and technology
to help her dying race. We bring that
hope for the planet and something
more. Much more.
She tells me especially about one
dream: purple rain from brown
clouds deluging the land, drenching
flesh, each drop a sting, the rasp
of shameful deeds. She understands
the boisterous thunder, the angry
flashing in the sky—a consequence
of those selfish acts—but puzzles
over a shadow backlit on a distant hill,
all around it, an uncanny light, spiked.
She wants to understand the meaning of
the cruciform beams, platinum and scarlet
bleeding into the darkness,
soothing all her people’s hurt away.
    Words catch in my throat.
    I simply weep.


Author’s Comments: The inspiration for this poem came from a broadcast I heard 20 years ago on Christian radio while driving home late night after teaching an astronomy class. I adapted the true story about missionaries visiting an African village with food and medical supplies but where the natives had never seen a white man before. After the learning of the language, one of the tribeswomen had a dream prophesying the arrival of these strange people, “aliens” of sorts. The dream, as I remember it being told, involved two birds carrying in their talons hardened piles of cow dung to a distant hill. In part, the symbolism was clear to the native—it represented the sin, disease, and everything that plagued the people being removed. But the part the “dreamer” didn’t understand was the significance of the cross-structure on top of that hill, where at its base, the dung was placed. My poem extrapolates this idea to other civilizations on distant worlds. The image painted by J.R. Phillips (posted here with permission) has an alien terrain quality that fits this poem rather well.

John C. Mannone has poems appearing in North Dakota Quarterly, Foreign Literary Journal, Le Menteur, Blue Fifth Review, Poetry South, Baltimore Review, the 2020 Antarctic Poetry Exhibition, and others. He won the Impressions of Appalachia Creative Arts Contest in poetry (2020), the Carol Oen Memorial Fiction Prize (2020), and the Joy Margrave Award (2015, 2017) for creative nonfiction. He was awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). His latest collection, Flux Lines: The Intersection of Science, Love, and Poetry, is forthcoming from Linnet’s Wings Press (2021). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. A retired physics professor, John lives between Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Image credit: My Father’s House (mixed media) by J.R. Phillips ( His studio website is J.R. is also a novelist of speculative fiction. See Rashure: Codex (Christian Faith Publishing, Inc., 2018)

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