And I will show wonders in the heavens
and in the earth: blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
It was after the Bible study down the road from
the observatory; its darkroom lab and archives.
The kerosene lamp flickered throughout the night
glinting off photographic glass plates, the silver
oxide betraying the smattering of stars outside
our galaxy. I almost missed it because of the glare
from the lamp as I scanned with magnifier in hand
—a humongous starburst, fireworks in the heavens
like no other imagined. It’s as if the entire galaxy
exploded. Surrounding star clusters, more luminous
from the shattering of light of what was NGC-597,
and now the sky at night is black.
I’ve seen the equations, just didn’t believe them
that a central black hole could explode like that—
sucking energy from another dimension; spilling it
into ours. Not just light and fast-moving particles
came out of that abyss. Before our sun turned into
darkness, and the moon into blood, the desperate air
over mountains thundered with thousands of locust
shaped ships—steeds of lion-maned aliens assaulting
our home. The Book of Joel spoke something of it,
and even though as an old man dreaming dreams,
like this, I didn’t believe that either.
NGC 597 is a barred spiral galaxy, like the Milky Way, in the constellation Sculptor
John C. Mannone, the 2020 Dwarf Stars Award winner and an HWA Scholarship recipient (2017), has poems appearing in North Dakota Quarterly, Blue Fifth Review, Poetry South, Baltimore Review, Pedestal, and others. He won the Impressions of Appalachia Creative Arts Contest in poetry (2020) and the Carol Oen Memorial Fiction Prize (2020). He was awarded a Jean Ritchie Fellowship (2017) in Appalachian literature and served as the celebrity judge for the National Federation of State Poetry Societies (2018). His full-length collections are Disabled Monsters (Linnet’s Wings Press, 2015), Flux Lines: The Intersection of Science, Love, and Poetry (Linnet’s Wings Press, 2022), Sacred Flute (Iris Press, 2023), and Song of the Mountains (Middle Creek Publishing, 2023). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. He’s an Assistant Professor of Physics and Chemistry, who also teaches Astronomy at Alice Lloyd College, as well as an invited Professor of Creative Writing [Poetry]. He lives in southeast Kentucky.