The Best of Mad Swirl : 09.25 – 10.08

by October 8, 2016 0 comments

“I just feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world being able to do what I love and be able to do it all day every day if I like, you know, I mean it’s great, I love it.” ~ Faith Ringgold

••• The Mad Gallery •••

“First Kiss” (above) by featured artist Bill Wolak. To see more of Bill’s mad canvases, as well as our other featured artists, visit our mad Gallery at!

••• The Poetry Forum •••

These past few weeks in Mad Swirl’s Poetry Forumwe stirred the stew with some ‘splainin’ to do; we asked for more, our selves to implore; we stirred with a worm to season a dream; we lightened our vocabulary by just one word; we took our picks of truths and tricks; we bought a fossil, got fossilization; we proposed a plan, urban renewal for self-made man; we heard the words for a better world. Speak in light! (Darkness is only for contrast.); we suffered the plight of an abandoned site; we excelled in paper airplane making; we ran in red, all else forsaking; we found reverie in what can be; we drank in the days of power plays; we pushed through the pall of life political; we struggled with the strife of living sans life; we muddled in the myth of being. Is it all what it seems; or, a story we tell with feeling?
~ MH Clay

My Mother Should Have Named Me Mythic by A.J. Huffman

Creature of improbability,
I waiver in your imagination.
Tempted, you touch, but cannot commit
to formal acknowledgement.
Belief is a permanent fixture,
something that will not be removed,
and I am temporary to the core, a vision
sparkling in the night, dissolving
into something less than a memory
before dawn.

editors note: Easy come, not so easy go. Remember? – mh clay

Home Is Where Death Is by Adam Sometimes

One dirty shirt away from extinction
They told me evolution was make believe
“Evil-ution” They would say
We got trenches dug in around our thoughts
And no one sees that the world revolves around sex
Or they pretend that it doesn’t
Because they pretend that they are happy sitting at their desk
Only doing what they want on Saturday and Sunday
Posting a Monday sucks meme
Dying on the inside
And the ones that can’t take it
kill themselves
Or die doing what they love
And there are less and less of these heroes
We are breeding pussies and cry babies
And people who take Tylenol for the pain
And stop running when their legs cramp up
And die when they are still living

editors note: Why not wait until death to die? – mh clay

politics by J.J. Campbell

i compare
politics to
watching a
play in the
largest theater

there is no time
for honesty or
even a wardrobe

the names all
stay the same,
even if the faces
are different

it’s easy to get
and just find
else to do


the dystopian
dreams are
your own

and this is what
the poor call life
and the rich call

and there is
no place worse
than the middle

editors note: Everywhere is middle on the surface of this ball; hellish, indeed! – mh clay

Wines of Power by Bruce McRae

Finally, the gods were reduced to the odd bit of glare,
to silhouettes and shadows, to a few fading and distant jeers.
And so light, a single pharaoh ant could lift or shift them.

They’ve lain down with the hay, becoming golden stalks.
They reside in funnel webs. In a convergence of ditches.
They are self-detained, a light-beam their prison.
Now when the gods are angry only the crickets may listen.

The ages forge new paths, the gods senile and forgetting.
They think in hallucinations, the old idylls in tatters.
They dress in the camouflage of stillborn human emotions,
shod in slippers sewn from centuries of unforgiving debasement,
a patina of lichen and moss substituting for a god’s skin,
chimera-dust chirping in their hair-pieces.

Of course they pine for the occasional phantasmagoria.
Of course they miss the black wines of power.
That’s what their despair is, this winter chill in the air.
Time is playing their god-bones like broken instruments.
No longer are we at the whim of the gods’ laughter.
The stars blow through them like poems made of wind.

editors note: We wish! Wall Street, Madison Avenue, Military Industrial Complex moguls; gods still laughing. – mh clay

aubade: an interrogation by Devon Balwit

can it be? this is what the eyes say, pouring themselves into the cup of morning,
what the “I” asserts, stepping into yesterday, wadded beneath the bed, what the
dog growls, pulling at the leash, straining a morning question, what the commuter
groans, rolling towards a livelihood, the offering or squandering of gifts, what the
poet sighs at the RE: […] marking her labors, what the doubter wonders from the
pew, contemplating stained glass and grievances, what the patient whispers before
the marked x-ray, what the chickadee rapid-fires from his branch — can it be?
can it be? can it be, be?

each day, hopvines reach
in verdant spiraling quest—
I would do likewise

editors note: And, with evening come new questions: was that so? was that so, so, so? – mh clay

Red by Damini Kulkarni

Red, you are a mackerel
Or some such fish.

Pulsating in sprays of guts and
blood, strewn about a sidewalk,
on the edges of sanity frayed into
sickening patterns of politics,
Red, you are a statement
corroding my personal idealism.

Rotting in freshly laid out rules
about fornication and love, rusting
in the restricted, forbidden lanes
of fluid sexuality and consent,
Red, you are an emotion denied
entry into my veins.

Ageing to hotness in eyes
abandoned by hope, incubating in
anger that is horrible in its impotency
and lethal in employment,
Red, damn you, you are a sight
that makes me shiver.

Grotesque, insidious, controlled Red,
you misdirect by fashioning yourself
into an
innocuous color.

But I am on to you.

You are a red bloody carp.
Or some such fish.

editors note: What she said, when she saw Red. (Watch out Blue, she’s coming for you.) – mh clay

AN EXHUMED CHILD by Hem Raj Bastola

In order
To clear my vision
Journey of imagination
An obscure memory
Engraved into

Papers I learn
To make the plane
Word-knots fixing: a bolt
Riveting clouds
Every now and then
Immersed into

The paper planes
Bring me back
An exhumed child
Carefree and wild
Reminds on each
Transmitted paper
To rebirth again
Running into
The field.

editors note: Paper plane progeny; relive the joy of running. – mh clay

Virtual Intimate Ghost Towns by Luther Koch

There are ghost towns
Scattered in fiber optical terrain.
Sites never taken down;
They just remain accessible,
Functional for a lonely few looking for romance.

Souls numbering not more than four
Timidly nestle
Where for a time
Many more boarded.
Enough to require a digital trestle for sustained support.

Commercial offers long expired,
And buttons that blink with superficial, empty enthusiasm
Border tapestries of profiles
And inactive links
Old enough to deserve their retired disposition.

I’ve joined a few myself
Not knowing a population was lacking.
At first blush, one might think
Pirates descended on all the members
And proceeded with ransacking, using tactics of stealth.

For those hoping to find someone
With whom to do the deed,
You might not find even a tumbleweed
While riding your steed
Around the intimate ghost town that is an abandoned dating website.

editors note: Where no one clicks “Like” and loneliness lingers, until you click “Next.” – mh clay

Hallelujah Dream by Sheighle Birdthistle

Such joy being the Spirit of Light!
a new incarnation of the self
sprightly, joyously residing
in a presence full of light and air
and the breath of forgiveness
and everlasting love.
The Spirit of Light dawned on the world
with a wispy gauze of breath
waking Sun who rose above the mountains
and smiled warmly on the Earth.

Trees felt the rising sap and trembled
in anticipation. Butterflies accepted
their existence as birds opened beaks
to receive their daily feed. Flowers
opened their cups and danced their petals
to the humming bee as clouds raced
across blue blue skies never stopping
to dull the golden vista. Amen. Amen.
A paradise waiting to be observed
by the clear eye of the beholder.

And all the earth breathe deeply into the core
of being and awoke singing a hallelujah song
of joy. Deep in earth’s heart, a boy raised his
head and whispered lowly to a girl, his shadow
of delight. They held hands and to the moving
sweep of the wind they swayed sensuously
to the click of the cricket’s music. The Tango
of Life had begun.
Sun shone full on the turquoise ocean
warming its waves that lapped their bodies
as they were cleansed by the healing
waters of calm and serenity.

Gambolling in different levels of ocean
heads submerged or feet barely insisting
their way into the playful shallow trickle of
an ocean that communicated with them
and all other beings nearby and distant.
The ocean spoke to them of longing
of fluidity of mind and cleansed souls
in a world of divinity available to all.
The mighty wind strengthened the quiet
ocean as they wondered at its changing
and they learned that the ocean’s might
was great indeed when joined to the strong wind.

The Spirit of Light smiled on the boy and girl
and curled the sand in the desert far from the ocean.
The sand rose like a whirling dervish and danced
to the exhalation of life and clarity of thought.
About rocks it crackled as cold descended
and split pieces in multiplication. Spirit of Light
moved on letting Shadow enhance the desert
with its stillness. Sound awoke as rocks screamed
out their existence.

Small animals filtered through
the oasis drinking from little pools of water
sparkling in the light of the full moon.
The desert was a lively concert of living things moving to
the music of the cracking rock. Shadow spread
its cloak further and further until it met the
Spirit of the Dark and they embraced.
As Shadow and the Spirit of the Dark touched
silently and gracefully the Spirit of Light took
ease and rest and slipped gently into a sleep
low beneath the horizon. Shadow shook its
edges and left the gentle Spirit of the Dark.

And gently now as sound was still
The Moon Spirit began its slow ascent
into the sombre sky speckled with the
spell of sparkling stars. Reflection gazed
from the setting sun as Moon Spirit became
full of joy and burst forth its light in exaltation
All was at peace in the hands of the gods
The boy and the girl embraced sweetly.

editors note: Embrace these words as boy embraces girl; a better world, a better world! – mh clay

Excavate this city. by James Rodehaver

Excavate this city.
(Dig me out.)

Let love pull whole cities out of me.
Cities filled with everything love ever needed to replace.

Pain is the asphalt, heartbreak builds character
And towers as tall as daylight.

Somebody’s gotta do the dirty work.
Let it be love.

Let love excavate my ego,
my pulsing need to be noticed,
to be vindicated.

Let’s tell the paradise of orgies and organs what we really think of it.

Let’s allow our pain to trap itself,
trap everything else that falls into it,
attracted by the scent.

Pull the worst of me out by the roots,
and burn it until the smoke rises high and asphyxiates
every vile goddamned seraphim who dared to judge me.

You have no city,
you can’t grow or build,
can’t excavate or replace.

The poor bastards only have paradise.

All they got is love,
a medicine deemed useless without the sickness.

Just give it away,
to someone who knows how to fucking use it.
Don’t judge.

I’m collecting cities,
(the ones I haven’t burned to the ground,)
that stand dried out, still and sterile
with calcified hurt and petrified anger.

I place their empty shells next to each other,
a growing black metropolis filled with every single time I hated god,
or the world,
and tried to prove it.

There are more attempted suicides buried there than demons.
More skyscrapers to my ego and detriment there than I hold inside me now.

Without the tinkerer, excavator, surgeon,
I’d have nuked the whole icky black
growing mass of mess in me
to hell a long, long time ago.

Even a blast crater is better than an empty paradise.

Dig me out, man,
it’s time.
It’s growing bigger than I’m growing.

And I’m getting up there,
haven’t you heard?
Hell, I got heartbreak towers.

Tall as the everlovin morning.

editors note: Even a pothole repair program is a good start. – mh clay

VISITATION by Clyde Kessler

Three crinoids and a brachiopod in one stone for a fiver,
or a spiraling stalk of an eye cradling the Tethys Sea, perhaps
an eye, perhaps the whole lily-animal reintegrated with death,
something more fossilized in a mirror. It distorts the museum.
It rounds the floor like starlight squeezed back into the stars.
The security footage shows how we blinked and grinned, waiting
for our kids to escape the auditorium. Effie swore it crooked
out of its stone and sprouted green gills. The camera shows zilch.
Just us, standing there, you made a face at our gift card,
bought two picture books, and a key chain. The creature now,
in no other light, has wrinkled eternity beyond us.

editors note: What else makes purchase as we exit the gift shop? – mh clay

they do tricks by Rob Dyer

they do tricks, you know?
the magicians and poets
the artists and makers of song
juggling tongues like lost heroes
begging you to find their way home
forgiving yesterday for tearing the veil away
for uncovering the layers where loss denies truth
where we met and corrupted the night’s dream

they remind you to drown while breathing
to forget while you care, carelessly
rendering their concerns for us all
and we…HA, we…as if there is a collective heart
beating the clock back under a bastard moon
left out for salvation, left alone for surrender,
left for the Lover’s to die under

and we
cringe in disbelief at the poignant points
thrust in our souls with words, with sight-lines,
with stringed apathy and trumpeted joyfulness
with clever mirrors tracing yellow bricks we’ve ridden
in back seats left bloodied by our imprinted minds

they do these tricks for us, fearlessly
knowing… the joke’s on them
for in every pause, in every stoic stanza,
in every aborted rhythm they dispense
the truth creeps through, a fiendish bitch
calling them out, calling them wrong,
calling them to court and to account
for being guilty
as only a judge can be

editors note: We can throw them stones, but they can throw’em back. – mh clay

Impossible by Ayeda Hamed

‘You can’t do this, you just can’t!’
‘Leave it, let it be’,
Chanting through and through,
Haunting me day and night,
Making me hide from everything, everyone – anything,
I put my hand near a paper, open my mouth, set my first foot,
A miracle, a breakthrough!
I can do this, I can!
What underestimated masterpieces we are,
Those who can turn cannots into have dones
‘Impossible?’ What is that?
A word unheard of,
An unexplored valley,
Teach us, we learn,
Love us, we grow,
Fight us, we avenge,
Flatter us, we love,
Help us, we succeed,
An inbuilt quality? No.
It is merely inbuilt passion,
Thus, with passion ‘impossible’ shall stay untouched
And we shall conquer the world!

editors note: Our limits are set within? Impossible! – mh clay

The worm in the pot by James Nyagilo

There’s a worm in the pot,
A burrowing beast,
Between root and rock,
A seedling is dead.

There’s a worm in the pot,
A floating corpse,
Within the earthen bowl,
The soup is marred.

There’s a worm in the pot,
A sluggish soul,
Burning leaf and stem,
And dreams flutter in.

editors note: Perhaps a good ingredient for our sordid soup? – mh clay


(on reading Muriel Rukeyser’s poem, Seventh Avenue)

After dark,
the damned bless us with their presence.

The city
opens up like the maw of the fire-breathing Chimera

they come forth

frozen freaks thawing in the sizzling night.

They come forth
fallen creatures of obscurity

roam freely through our streets, the dazzling dreamy

of New York City,

our glittering avenues with their bestial darkness.

shedding the skin of invisibility,

they come forth & bless us with their presence.

we rush away from the damned

they dissolve & vanish in the shadows.

On sultry summer nights in the cauldron of the seething city,
I catch a glimpse of the damned in the corner of my left eye

in a furious flash, the pariah-beasts of New York force-feed me

apocalyptic news
of sin & suffering

in the city that shrieks the crimson blues

gazing into & through their bruised barren eyes,

wounded windows
of Hell-on-earth,

see the ominous everlasting wasteland they see

ineffable evil

my thick swirl of boyish innocence

my everflowing river of faith

a chasm of doubt

a heavy shroud of anguish covers me crushes my spirit

I too vanish in the shadows until a beautiful alchemy transforms me

if it does
my trinity of-

knowledge pain & will

the light buried in the pitch-black abyss

if I accept the Holy 3

I grow into a transcendence

if I grow

this is the blessing bestowed by the damned
if I receive it

but fugitives from the silent blessings & secret divinity of the damned?

if we don’t face the evil we see?

if we do not receive the blessings of the damned?

if we don’t ask why?

editors note: Without mirrors, what can we really see? (Read another of Mel’s missives on his page, a tribute to 9/11 and Marcy Border – check it out.) – mh clay

Explain. by Nidhi Krishna

Explain two hundred Iraqi corpses caused by chunks of metal strapped to timers that counted every human breath.

Explain twenty hacked bodies on bread-fumed floors;

A body strapped to a chair with death wound tight around his wrists, enclosing his neck like a noose,

A man who lies dead because he chose not to leave his friends,

And people; people pressed up tight against chipped bathroom doors, lungs rattling and trembling with fear and not oxygen.

Explain an airport being ripped apart with fear and panic and guns and grenades and the all-consuming thought that ‘This place was supposed to be safe.’

Explain to me, your need to pull apart families, ripping out a tendon in their hearts with each member that you kill,

And explain to me the need to murder swaying, dancing lovers, as they wrap affection around wrists and waists.

Explain the husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents, friends, lovers, people, you blew up,

And explain the children talking excitedly in class, pulling out dog-eared textbooks from their bags and the teachers calling out for silence in the class, that you slew.
(There was silence in the class, at the end of it all).

But if the word ‘God’ appears in your explanation?

Don’t give it to me.

Because holy books everywhere give explanations. Religions give explanations and Gods give explanations.

But nowhere, in any holy books,

In any temple, mosque, church, gurudwara, monastery, fire temple, synagogue, building, house, home,

Nowhere in any religion, faith, culture,

Not even amongst the words that spew from the mouths of the million gods that are prayed to every second of every day,

Will you ever find a valid explanation for any of this.

editors note: Oh, the ultimate pill; swallow it on faith. – mh clay

••• Short Stories •••

Here’s a couple of mighty fine tales you mighta missed these past couple weeks:


Never judge a book by its cover. I learned this from a small incident that would almost disappear into the shadows of history, were it not for the power of memory that can’t help wanting to retrieve it, and others like it, and, too often, does.

I was a handsome guitarist in a late-teens, 20’s and 30’s bar called the Escape Lounge in a poor Irish section of Queens called Richmond Hill. ‘The Hill,’ it was dubbed. You went along Jamaica Avenue to find the bar and the club was at the end of a long string of factories and warehouses.


Along with me on this October Friday night was this drummer who called himself Johnny Cino (who claimed he stole his last name from his cousin, Benny Petracino) and a huge keyboard player named Scotty Boy Fortunato.

Scotty Boy specialized in the Fender Rhodes electric instrument with a live, acoustic piano sound. We also needed a singer and he was it. Scotty Boy, who was also called Big Scott, for all that pasta he ate, actually weighed 375 pounds. He told me this more than once, bragged about it, kind of, mentioned all those Italian Sunday macaroni feasts in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. ‘And especially holidays,’ he once said, in the middle of our now three-year acquaintanceship and professional relationship. ‘You have NO idea how much we eat!’

But we didn’t – other people who knew him, that is – bring this weight issue up too much with him. If he wanted to bring up poundage, that was O.K.

Otherwise, nobody volunteered it. Actually, some rude customers sometimes mentioned it in the form of suggestions for weight loss, but the musicians stayed mum… (read on here)

Inverse Veritas by Jenean McBrearty

“Detective Earl Horsewhite, as I live and breathe, it is you!” Mona LaPiere, chanteuse extraordinaire, had been lounging in the San Angelo P.D. interrogation room for a half an hour, behaving as though she was pool-side at the Hilton. Earl had been observing her the entire time, memories of love and suffering fighting his professional judgment. She’d been exonerated of fraud last time, but this time the charge might be murder.

“Yeah, it’s me, Mona.”

“You’re still here. Loyalty is so admirable. Are you still unmarried?”

“The question is, are you?”

She sneezed a petite light-hay-fever sneeze into her lace hankie. “I left my husband in Budapest.”

“You made reservations at the Four Seasons, but no one there ever saw Mr. LaPiere. You arrived by train?”

“After I arrived by plane. Mr. LaPiere, my Kije, is so ephemeral. One moment he is there and then the next? Poof! He’s gone. All husbands should be like that. It would drive down the divorce rate precipitously.”

“Husbands are not lap dogs, Ms. LaPiere. They do not just come when they’re called, do their business, and leave.”

“Perhaps not here in bourgeoisie America, but in the land of the Danube romance is still possible—have you ever been there? Been in love?”

Was she asking a question or pleading? He avoided her mysterious green eyes that could captivate the most resilient of men. To see her lips say the word love too would be unbearable. “Mona, you’re from New York.”

“And Pilaf was from the red light district in Paris. Does it matter where one’s body is born, when one’s heart is in San Francisco or Rome or Budapest?”… (read on here)


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…

Feelin; Lucky,

Johnny O
Chief Editor

MH Clay
Poetry Editor

Tyler Malone
Short Story Editor

Madelyn Olson
Visual Editor

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