Lost Wilderness

by John C. Mannone


The stump and rock-strewn path
leads to a fallen log in the brush
by the stream. I have never seen
mushrooms like these, except
in old movies like the Invasion
of the Body Snatchers. These are
clearly alien—fleshy amorphous
skin pulses faster and faster as
I approach them, and the water
flow below, with its own static
hiss, covers up the cries oozing
out the sick-yellow membranes.

I waste no time backtracking
but the trail is now blocked-off
with a giant spider web netting
my freedom. The rustle of leaves
isn’t from an anxious wind. Eight
iridescent eyes move fast toward
me, I run deeper into the woods
trying to escape. But only find
dense birch wood stands, and
a low roar that is throatier than
any bear’s, wincing the air. I cower

in a hollowed-out limestone
slick with moss. My panting
doesn’t stop. I crane my neck,
but don’t see anything but tall
trees reaching into the gauzy sky,
but the dirt, only ten feet away,
starts to crumble under clawing
roots—no doubt a deformed tree
stalking as if  Tyrannosaurus Rex
Even the rocks dare not cry out.

I manage to sneak off in stealth
and finally make it to the trailhead
where a pinewood sign reads,
“Park Under Construction: Beware
Creatures undergoing design testing.”
I am not relieved. I need to change
my pants.


John C. Mannone has recent work appearing in the North Dakota Quarterly, the 2020 Antarctic Poetry ExhibitionThe MenteurForeign Literary Magazine, and others. His poetry won the Impressions of Appalachia Creative Arts Contest (2020). 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 (2020). He edits poetry for Abyss & Apex and other journals. A retired physics professor, he lives near Knoxville, Tennessee. http://jcmannone.wordpress.com


Published 7/16/20