“Endeavour to be faithful, and if there is any beauty in your thought, your style will be beautiful; if there is any real emotion to express, the expression will be moving.” George Henry Lewes
••• The Poetry Forum •••
This last week in Mad Swirl’s Poetry Forum… we wondered how a lady fat got a leotard on a cat; we muddled mad love ‘neath a musical tree; we solved with ardor a mystery murder; we made much ado of a room with a view; we ripped ourselves ragged on a soul, rightly jagged; we reached impasse in a game about class (no winners); we finished a race in jubilation, wearing a sad pink premonition. Oracles speak. Some believe them. Others know we can take or leave them. ~ MH Clay
The Premonition of a Sash
When my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer 13
unlucky years ago
my sisters and I, scared and unsure
decided to raise money and do one of those walks
that are always advertised each October.
First there was money to be raised,
funds to solicit
and then registration and
finally that morning in nyc,
we with our pink shirts
joined ranks and marched through the streets.
We walked a marathon over those two days
sore blistered feet
longer than I had ever walked at that time
slithering like a giant pink snake up the west side
That night they bused us out to Roosevelt Island
where we pitched our tents,
ate some food,
enjoyed the free entertainment
paid for by our donations
had our sore blistered feet rubbed.
There were gift bags with lotion provided
by Avon. Everything was pink.
In the morning, I threw back the flaps of my tent,
the brilliant October sun
bobbing like a cork on the horizon,
and found on the floor
a pink sash.
They had been left overnight,
one at every eighth tent
depicting the 1 in 8 women that will be diagnosed
with breast cancer in their life.
I lifted it with pride, slid it over my shoulder,
did a quick Miss America wave to the sun
and returned to our marching.
You’re making a difference, I lied to myself.
At the end of the journey my parents and my husband met us
back at Battery Park where the whole thing began.
My mother’s hair was already starting to fall out,
and she eyed warily,
as if the sash were deadly,
a boa perched on my shoulder
waiting to squeeze.
What is that, she asked
and when I told her
held it up like I had won some sort of lottery
my voice excited to recite statistics
high from the journey we had just taken
surrounded by all these cheerful pink women
Give it to me, she said, sliding it off,
balling it up in her fist,
she brushed at my shoulder
as if the sash had left behind some
that years from now
they would find on a pathology report.
She pulled me hard into a hug
No, she whispered.
(1 poem added 04.18.15)
editor’s note: We hope the knowing of a thing will protect us from a thing; our mothers know better. – mh
When I was a child, I spoke as a child,
I understood as a child and would act
Out my own version of Pilgrim’s Progress
On the beach, on vacation. My brother
Would get bored and wander off, so I’d be
Christian up against a Worldly Wiseman,
Fighting Giant Despair, and I’d walk the
Wall of Salvation. You know your childhood
Was odd when Bunyan is fun, yet he was
To me. At least I wasn’t in school: the
Beach was better than another church, and
No more preaching for an instant, sweeter
Still. Blessed in many ways, I never feared
Mother would sneak drinks, or Father leaving
As soon as he could. I only feared what
I heard on Sundays, God’s disgust with my
Sins; how all sin was the same sin, and you
Were as bad, if not worse, than your neighbor:
The Lord saw clean thru you; his hatred of
Sin was perfect, enduring forever.
My wife, late one night, described playing “Class
Struggle” with her Dad. The board game had been
Invented by someone, I am guessing,
With way too much spare time and students who
Slept thru his pensées. Instead of what her
Friends played—where you moved pieces around a
Board and with any luck won all the deeds
To the hotels and the money and the
Railroads–Rachel did not get to pick a
Token, since “No one chooses which class they
Are born into.” This game was severe: you
Lost points for pitying workers or blaming
Blacks or Jews. To win really big you had
To know your Marx, even the early pamphlets.
When she was a bad token all she could
Do was start wars or crush a union: the
Rules were strict. A good token meant she could
Be a shop steward who made ATU
Proud, whiter than snow, and got more rolls of
The dice for caring about poverty.
I wonder if her father actually
Enjoyed this game: Worker v Parasite
Is always rigged one way or the other,
And, just like my Sunday school lessons, dull.
At some point in each life the child must wake
Up and know his mother human, and his
Father, fallible, and yet we seldom
See someone who truly breaks from what
They learned from the first teachers. My Father-
In-law had troubles with the unions;
They were rough with him, then rougher. But he
Made sure his daughter knew the words to Pete
Seeger songs and she’d never take work, or
The people who did real work, for granted.
I go to no church: and won’t, and yet each
Poem of mine owes something to Psalms I
No longer sing. There’s more to that book than
We see—the poet lays down his bed in
Hell, and “thou art there.” No one outruns what
Made them new. Just today I get an email
From a studiedly neutral, carefully
Bi-partisan group, telling me there is
Still time to “Fight for a world that is fair
And just,” a gospel learned from prophets, a
Pure blazon that man must always mean more
Than money. And how good to see these words,
And fair and just are what we would most love,
Even if some of those prophets saw all
Too clearly, and there’d be another great fall,
Leaving not one stone on a stone.
(1 poem added 04.17.15)
editor’s note: Our dialectic debate ends with an unanswered question, “After the Fall, will there be left any force of will to go on?” – mh
Jagged Edge Souls
Baby, all kinds of people
have different shaped souls.
A lot of people, regular people
have souls shaped like squares.
It’s easy for them to find someone.
Just another square,
to sit next to them on the couch
watch Network TV
spend their corporate paycheck.
It’s easy for square souls
to find other souls.
But me and you?
We have souls with crazy jagged edges
Like jigsaw puzzle pieces
and it’s difficult to find
that one puzzle piece of a soul
that fits next to your puzzle piece soul.
but I’ve found it.
You are the jigsaw puzzle piece to my soul.
I used to tell her this sometimes,
when she was mine, and
she used to like to hear it.
(1 poem added 04.16.15)
editor’s note: It’s hard to pick through the pile for another perfect piece when you had one in your pocket. – mh
All rooms weave a lodging memory from a chandelier, leaking little flowers from the mini-fridge, the personal fan, Anne’s lace, that doggy through the clouds, her stippled brush strokes of aura follow her shapes through the dining room flowers –
Each Disease comes with its own vacuum free of charge, lived in, dirty with words. We hoped (from our posture in the white throne) these might linger, ones that won’t, replaced by the morning curtains, the soft white of her shape, caressed through the window, a painting behind dodge dreams, touched up with the rising hills, heifers and bulls –
(1 poem added 04.15.15)
editor’s note: Home as landscape. Disease as lover, animal in the clouds. – mh
Would he have killed her by now
all neat and
tidy and in time
for retrospect, the
tying of loose ends,
picture shelves, a few
years or more of watching
themselves widening time to
allow room for portraits stepped out of yearbooks?
Would he? Somewhere in circumstance would she
be his victim cut out of whodunit whydunit
climax… a character killed off for reasons
only an author knows, an author who
doesn’t have to say why she died?
Readers need to know. So does
the one who might have
Would he have killed her by now
if he hadn’t already died and
bloodied the old road,
splattered that old
road with every
Maybe he would have grown
up to be a monster
and killed her
(1 poem added 04.14.15)
editor’s note: This mysterious mess draws the detective’s conclusion, “Maybe he did…” – mh
Under The Hummer Tree
The Hummer Tree,
Sacred pillar of our school community.
Site of countless hummers.
The Hummer Tree bare
And party to blue-lipped, quick, cold-trembling hummers.
New growth, new blowers and blowees.
Hot, sweaty, teenage-fumble hummers,
Welcome cool shade and relative darkness
So as not to showcase the hummer too much,
Or get too hot.
And of course, dry, scratchy leaves falling on my head,
All the heads,
Giving head hidden from the Head
And her Deputy Head hummers.
No matter the season it was always
Cool to be given or to give
A hummer under the Hummer Tree.
– Simon Pinkerton
editor’s note: Hum, um. If you don’t know this tune, ask someone to blow a few bars for you. – mh
Covered with a Leotard
A fat lady,
With a red, oozing pimple,
In the middle of her face,
Squeezed one more tomato.
Her brown hands clutched,
Burst that fruit,
Onto her print dress, maybe.
Nearby, a rain-soaked cat,
Curves of muscle,
Visible beneath skin
Covered with a leotard.
Eyes wide, aware, she peered,
Surveyed the shuk,
Witnessed the forced fruit, maybe.
Thereafter, a gang of children,
Punctuation, good grammar, manners,
Pinched the lady.
They crowded the cat, while
Merrily stuffing bon mots
Into their coats, maybe.
(1 poem added 04.12.15)
editor’s note: Careful kids, only thing madder than a wet cat is a wet cat in a leotard. – mh
••• Short Stories •••
Need a read? Well then we got just the bait for you to bite on!
Here is what Short Story Editor Tyler Malone had to say about this pick-of-the-week tale, “Chapmans Lake” by Milt Montague: “Life, this is it: survival. Beautiful survival, what makes us who we are.”
Here’s a nibble:
My first graders bring in something they like from the outside world to share for Show and Tell every Tuesday morning.
Uncle Nat was definitely my favorite uncle. He was my mother’s younger brother and lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania with his wife, Sadie, and their two daughters, Lillian and Dorothy. Dorothy, the younger girl was just one year my junior and we were great friends for years.
Uncle Nat, born Hershel Newtah Jochnewitz, Americanized his name to Nathan Young while still in his late teens and working in New York’s Garment Center (thousands of manufacturers, their showrooms, factories, and suppliers all jammed into a small area of tall buildings in the west side of middle Manhattan). As the rising young star in the firm, he was chosen to open and manage a coat manufacturing plant by his employers, Linder Bros. of New York. The new plant was to be located in Scranton, Pennsylvania to avoid the “pernicious” influence of the ILGWU, the powerful Ladies Garment Workers Union. This was 1940 and the non-union wage scale was much lower in Scranton, Pennsylvania which was an old coal mining town not far from New York.
Scranton is located in The Jermyn Mountains within commuting range of many small fresh water lakes that were developed as summer colonies. Some of these lakes were within a three hours’ drive from New York City.
One spring Nat called his older sister Helen and invited her and her family to spend their vacation with his family, at a cottage he had rented for the summer. It was directly on Chapmans Lake, had six bedrooms and ample room for everyone. The house was completely furnished, including bedding and all kitchen equipment. There was even a rowboat tied up at its own dock just a few steps from the house.
Get the rest of your read on here!
••• MadSwirl 2.0 •••
For the past couple of years we have been teasing y’all about this whole MadSwirl 2.0 launch. Consider the long and drawn-out tease almost over! On 4.20 we will be flipping the switch from what was… for the previous 7-ish years… and switching over to what will be for MadSwirl.com. (and for those that get the significance of that date, we chose it just for you;)
What can you expect from this 2.0 platform? All you’ve already come to expect from Mad Swirl. The Poetry Forum will still be stocked daily with the vivacious voices spanning this mad world of ours. The Short Story Library will be chockfull of the finest flash fiction around. The Mad Gallery will still be featuring some mad & swirling visuals to titillate your eyeballs. What will be different is that our collective creative outlet will no longer be a one-way street. You can now interact with the content. On this new stage you, our Contributing Poets, Writers, & Artists, will be able to comment and share your thoughts and feelings on not only your own work, but also your fellow Mad ones works!
The new platform also plays a whole lot nicer with the world of social media. Quickly connect to your fave media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) and spread the word on your featured works. There’s nothing quite like that feeling of hitting one button and sharing your works with friends & family.
There is a whole lot more behind the scenes improvements too. As we swirl on down this mad road, we will surely find other tricks up our sleeve that will make the MadSwirl.com experience even better. We look forward to this new horizon in our Mad Swirl world and better ways to showcase the finest poets, writers, & artists that color our worlds.
The whole Mad Swirl of everything to come keeps on keepin’ on… now… now… NOW! Every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year, every decade, every every EVERY there is! Wanna join in the mad conversations going on in Mad Swirl’s World? Then stop by whenever the mood strikes! We’ll be here…
Short Story Editor