The Best of Mad Swirl : 12.26.20

by December 27, 2020 0 comments

“We live at the edge of the miraculous.”

Henry Miller

••• The Poetry Forum •••

This last week in Mad Swirl’s Poetry Forum we dazed our way to a Day of days, expressing ourselves in different wayswe endeavored to mend a rift, to be a better gift; we told a tale, a Yuletide topper, about a pissed-off Christmas shopper; we caught some Merry Christmas musings, imagination’s wild enthusings; we picked out the child born of Star Wars and popcorn; we Santa’s mask doffed as he hacked and he coughed; we took the time to think upon a different way to sing a song; we learned not to be upset about the gifts we didn’t get. We write, it’s better to give than be got; we try to match our gift to thought. ~ MH Clay

It Was Dreadful and I Miss It by David P. Kozinski

We never get everything on our lists:
one year a chill sidled up from the coat
of ice on my lawn like a drunk girl
at a coming of age party
and wouldn’t let go.

I no longer need to scratch
myself raw with holly and ivy and slowly
the raked skin smoothes over.
With the holiday goes the Godot familiarity
of the hangover, the grudging, smoky bowl.

I’ve suffered those days to dissolve
into the deep of an upturned hat
set down on a bed; my mouth shut ‘til midday,
the family skirting my scurvy self.


Sleep was never too long
except when it clouded up
like water in Pernod.

We rolled into the comforter all elbows
and legs and free-floating down.

This was alcohol-tripping
I think aloud
sprawled on a mattress
in a room of unpainted drywall
and splintering random board, under a skylight
under a freezing night’s stolid eyes;

tripping like in the story of the couple driving
through a sparkling desert
where something of themselves
that I have forgotten was revealed.

December 26, 2020

editors note: Wrappings discarded; all presents dissolve into a present to remember. – mh clay

Imagine a Christmas song by Alan Gann

played or sung
without trying to sell you anything—
not a Nintendo, not a Savior, not a download,
compact disc, or another worthy cause.
Imagine a Christmas song
sung because the winter darkness is crisp
because each rising star reminds us
every newborn is holy
because your breath turns crystal
and the coyote howls.
Imagine finding yourself
staring out at the predawn moon
humming a song about a silent night.

December 25, 2020

editors note: Imagine that. Merry Paxmas, everybody!- mh clay

A COVID Kinda Christmas by Johnny Olson

Tis the night before Christmas,
When all across this land
A pandemic is raging
Foiling Yuletide plans.

We, in our face masks,
Nestling six feet apart.
While silently praying
This cough ain’t the start.

The stockings were hung
With sanitized care.
In case we’re infected,
That guilt we can’t bear.

Presents sit sterilized
Under fake plastic tree.
Medical-grade cellophane,
Insured COVID-free!

Hand sanitizers, face masks,
White latex gloves…
Gifted with care
For good health & for love.

The cookies & milk?
Nope, not this year.
One sneeze or sniffle
Brings irrational fear!

When what did we hear,
It brought such a shudder!
The sounds of St. Nick
It could be none other!

By the chimney we waited
But he broke down the door
As he pounced he announced,
“Santa’s merry no more!”

“Give me some meds! (cough)
Some cookies! A beer! (cough)
It’s 2020 for me too
And it’s been quite a year!”

The Fat Man kept coughing
His sickness was fast
We panicked & hid
Behind plexiglass.

The North Pole, it seems
Isn’t nearly as woke.
Santa’s unmasked?
This must be a joke!

“Santa, we’d love to have ya
But onward you must fly.
The gift that you’re giving
Just might make us die”

Coughing & sneezing
& blowing his elf nose,
He saw our fear, grabbed his gear
And left us exposed

When in his sleigh he proclaimed,
Before he swerved outta sight,
“COVID Christmas to all (cough-cough)
and to all a (cough) night!”

December 24, 2020

editors note: Don we now our hazmat onesies, Fa la la la la la la la la… – mh clay

Burned Hallelujah Popcorn by Tyler Malone

With no goddamn words, thank God baby Jesus won’t come this year.
Wise folk don’t travel, the North Star is at war with all bodies
sick of holding our prophecies because we dared to drag them down to us.
Now what the hell can we believe in? No stars, only wars.

We heard rumors of starlit wars and viruses, but neither was born in movie theaters
for a Christmastime miracle of militarized nostalgia on a giant screen.
The last movie too many saw in a butter-slick seat was Star Wars
trapping all our lives in sneeze wakes, sequels, phone text crawls.

All needed to be saved from sin but every moment was disappointment,
pressing a straw over tongues, not sharing a sentence even though
next year we’d never see a stranger’s set of spontaneous teeth.
All air in-between us was toxic but we’re all box office poison’s grandchildren.

Our world’s made art out of killing aliens, but other people?
They kill everything.
We’ve known this but now it’s all we know. And you’ll kill them too.
We used to just kill lights for stars caught in humankind’s last frame.

Stars pulse and hiss, don’t speak, but we give them stories.

Last Christmas, in a galaxy far, far away, something went outside in snowfall,
closed all its eyes to see how snow tastes, if it could be different far, far away
as seasons shift, colors drain from a savior’s lips dead to the taste of a virus
from others standing under a solo sun and feeling the force of their own dead.

Now in our universe, we see so much but not past this moment.
Seasons will come and go but stars won’t, neither will wars,
and none of us will live to count them all as we look ahead
to live funerals on tiny computer screens while stars war with
the deepest night finding us a million years from now, far, far away.

December 23, 2020

editors note: ‘Tis the Season (not the sequel) for peace (not a piece of the box office). Let the popcorn pass. – mh clay

In this Christmas of 2020 by Jayanta Bhaumik

Let us stick to this seasonal soil and stand under this singing
tree’s silver shadow This Christmas, we shall celebrate our
failures too, our share of scare hidden in the current annual charades.
This year we will push our light bit slow for our next goodwill trip,
being the unperturbed contemporaries of hope, – really, I wish certain
hopes wouldn’t look like the bus-terminuses on the net – being the
eyeballs socketed so correct, never running through the
unterraced height of some anomalous clarity – being also like a
twig’s weird augury never known by any decadent botanist ever –
like the most recent edition of mind seeming as if a motherly
acceptance of samsara or whatever told by the beauticians after
they change all the black spots to the surprising butterflies on your face –

being just the humans, without the epicenters – being a verdict of this
year’s polythene lily, its no-smell issue such a bad year of mannerisms –
being so much locked under a curious skin – being a body susceptible to
a saying so venomous in the air – being the member of this year’s
learnedness, no, we shouldn’t breathe free more, no, we shouldn’t
unmask our faces even for our mirrors

Being still in the freedom of what you never have known by a name

This Christmas, we will decorate every tree as if each leaf this morning
a galactic green drop
Every time I utter it for every moment is my day and my night

Every New Year begins in my eyes with a drop of
water you call an ocean of life

December 22, 2020

editors note: Our seasonal samsara; kill a tree, drip a drop of water. Noel and New Year together. – mh clay

open slay by Tanner

Christmas eve, the shop was so busy
it was decided we would not be taking
any breaks.
after 6 hours of serving the queue,
I took a mince pie out of my pocket:
mangled, and garnished with pocket fluff, yeah,
but it was Christmas and I was hungry
so I ate it at the checkouts
as I scanned and packed
and the customer, she says:
you brought enough of them for everyone?
no, I told her.
my pockets aren’t big enough to feed everyone,
financially and literally.
hrumph! she jiggled her face.
well that’s not very Christmasy of you, is it?
was she being serious?
give me your lunch, or you’re not being Christmasy –
that was her argument?
because, you know,
she just HAD to have an argument, didn’t she?
with a shopworker? on Christmas eve?
so after scanning her, like, fifth tub of chocolates,
instead of putting it in a bag, I took the lid off
and asked her: mind if I have all the Malteser ones?
but apparently, THAT was stealing.
whether I was robbing the shop or the customer
I don’t know,
but both she and my boss seemed pretty pissed off about it.
maybe they were sticking up for one another?
after all, it’s good to think of
the less fortunate
during the festive season,
innit just?

December 21, 2020

editors note: Give cheer to get cheer to cheer up, enough to go ’round. – mh clay

right living by Jean Bohuslav

a celebration of life
and gratitude…
all reflections of growth

a reminder
to be a better you
a gift to the universe
of consciousness and union…
attributes of awareness

any event or story which enriches
a path to peace
is an excellent way to celebrate life…
becoming everyday endeavours

we cannot change others
but by improving ourselves
setting better examples…
the world becomes a better place

so merry christmas
and a rich happy new year

December 20, 2020

editors note: Nothing wrong with being a better right. ‘Tis the Season! – mh clay

••• Short Stories •••

Mad Swirl’s weekend Need-a-Read, The Wedding Fee comes to us from Contributing Writer & Poet KJ Hannah Greenberg!

Here’s what Short Story Editor Tyler Malone has to say about our featured read:

“Our clutter is treasure, dammit, we just don’t know it yet. But time will tell who discovers the riches under dust and dirt. Something will shine, just not while you hold it.”

Here’s a glimpse into this lil gem about hidden lil gems:

(photo “Drapes and Forever and Little Things” by Tyler Malone)

“It was an Appelt.”


“Its sale covered the fees for: the hall, my dress, and the caterer.”

“Not parsing.”

“I found it when cleaning out my grandma’s storage room.”


“I was looking for vintage and found expensive art.”


“You and I took Art Appreciation, together, sophomore year.”

“We also toked together and we each also slept, without telling the other, with Brad Tymps.”

“Did you get herpes, too?”

“Don’t ask.”

“Anyway, before I took it to Good Will, but weeks after I took it to my apartment, my brain unarchived our fifth week of Art Appreciation.”


“Appelt. Late Twentieth Century. More known for children’s books. Won a Newberry for The Underneath. Eventually, Sotheby’s racked up major profit on it. There are very few of her paintings that have gone public.”

“Oh. So why did your granny have it?”

“I’ll have to ask.”…

Get the whole backstory right here!

P.S. What’s the maddest thing imaginable? For us, it’s when our featured writers assemble their work with a spine and send it out into the world. KJ’s newest collection Demurral is available on Amazon. We’re grabbing some copies, so here’s hoping you do as well.


Mad Swirl’s midweek Need-a-Read, by Jake Sheff, is outta this world!

Here’s what Short Story Editor Tyler Malone has to say about our featured read:

“Turtle power! Some might say it’s an abomination of nature, but those people need to come out of their shells.”

To help you escape for a spell, here’s how Jake’s sci-fi tale, An Amphibious Light begins:

(photo “Alien Wasteland” by Tyler Malone)

The sun rose on Mars, and Spektor watched the grainy images sent back by NASA’s rover on his computer screen. The MP3 playing was a European dance beat without any real instruments, produced by a South African DJ who never showed her face. The time was 3:21 in the AM. Evanescence, Spektor’s girlfriend, was out somewhere, either at work or a dance club. He didn’t worry, they had matching tattoos to lockdown their fidelity. And Mr. Magoo, Evanescence’s turtle, had apparently signaled to Eva that Spektor was it while Spektor was “away on business” two winters ago. The truth was, Spektor was back in his homeland wandering along fjords and through herds of reindeer to scatter the ashes of another dead sister.

Spektor looked down at his feet. Mr. Magoo was standing on top of them and staring at Spektor bemusedly, paternal and knowing. “You want to eat, buddy?” Spektor reached into his bag of miniature carrots, leaned down for Mr. Magoo to nibble the root from his hand. The image on screen blinked as the sun fully emerged from the Martian horizon; the cameras on board the radio-controlled explorer adjusted their apertures. Behind him the lock on his door clicked open…

Get onboard & get the rest of this read on right 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…

Livin’ on the edge,

Johnny O
Chief Editor

MH Clay
Poetry Editor

Tyler Malone
Short Story Editor

Madelyn Olson
Visual Editor

Mike Fiorito
Associate Editor

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