The Best of Mad Swirl : 02.20.21

by February 21, 2021 0 comments

“To hell, to hell with balance! I break glasses;
I want to burn, even if I break myself.
I want to live only for ecstasy.”

Anaïs Nin

••• The Mad Gallery •••

Moreno Valley LizardChris Zimmerly

Mad Swirl’s newest featured artist, Chris Zimmerly – or popularly known to the Mad community as Zim – catches glimpses of the every day in an extraordinary way. There is an unshakeable feeling to his photos that almost make it look as though you’re seeing the world through his eyes. And if you know Zim, you know that seeing the world through his eyes is often a sweet little peak into what we at Mad Swirl love the most: pure madness. ~ Madelyn Olson

To see all of Zim’s visions, as well as our other former featured artists (over 50 in total), take a virtual stroll thru Mad Swirl’s Mad Gallery!

••• The Poetry Forum •••

This past week on Mad Swirl’s Poetry Forum… we heard a good jeer about living in fear; we imagined a girl in a freezing world; we ordered along on the remnant of song; we got no traction with a gut reaction; we looked at a face of wisdom and grace; we considered sublime the freezing of time; we gave studied heed to a wonderful weed. We wrote the week strong in story and song.. ~ MH Clay

Robinia by David Punter

The eighty-foot Robinia
that grows in my garden
and tries to hide behind the garage, like a gangly
adolescent merging into the crowd, though
its delicacy of leaf is an indelible mark of distinction,
is also, I discover, known as the ‘black locust.’

The Black Locust. It sounds like a spy
from a pre-war novel, last suspected
of living under an assumed name in Casablanca
or perhaps Port Said, consorting with
dancing girls and passing on messages from the Fat Man
in mysterious codes, whorls, woody curlicues.

An invasive species, in this case from North America
where, paradoxically, it has been recently classified
as a weed due to its suckering habit
(where there are spies there are always also the gullible)
and so I look up at it
with renewed wonder; the world’s stateliest weed.

Most species are invasive; how many English nationalists
suspect the great oak of Chinese origins?
They must have laid their plans long ago,
in case the telecoms didn’t work out.
Since they can’t be made to grow straight, they’re no use
for railway sleepers; but maybe they’re sleepers anyway.

Robinia can’t be straightened either;
they have nothing to do with lines, defined angles;
their branches are flamboyant yet secretive;
if ingested by horses their bark causes,
among other ailments, depression and anorexia. Yet their pods
are eaten in Japan and Romania as delicacies.

The ‘delicate tree;’ that is what I called it
before I knew any of its many names.
Spy, horse-killer, preyer on crops,
invader of the prairies, your girth too big to mention
in polite company; crown-shy, twig-gentle, wrap me in
a forested espionage from which I shall never emerge.

February 20, 2021

editors note: When a weed sparks wonder… – mh clay

Frozen River by Michael Estabrook

Some physicists say (not Einstein) that time
is not like a river flowing
from the past through the present
into the future but instead a frozen river
no past or future no flowing of anything anywhere
everything that’s ever happened
or is happening or will happen is there already
frozen together (this is not the easiest
concept in the world to grasp)
time doesn’t move
just sits there in a big block of ice.
So theoretically I’m in our living room
back in our house on Northfield Avenue
Mom’s on the sofa watching TV
Gunsmoke or Perry Mason and I’m ten running
my Matchbox cars up and down the hills and valleys
that are her arms and legs
and I haven’t a care in the world.

February 19, 2021

editors note: Here’s where we might like all our assets frozen. – mh clay

GRACE AND WISDOM by David Solomon

A stack of dried sticks,
send mother’s call to the red earth;
the people of dust rise in response.

She bends with the grace of the night sky, arranging firewood in the tripod stove.

‘I cannot promise
that the world will like you
my son.’

The skin on her tender hands, weave the path to wisdom. The air heralds the smell of kerosene and soon,
I hear the wrangles of fire and wind.

‘Life is a jealous circle;
you mustn’t be the

The pot-bellied stove tells a joke to the pot and they laugh.

Mother’s lemon peel scent falls to the ground;
blue smoke suckles at her breast.

With back to the heavens and a spoon in hand, the secrets of cooking, are spelt in the pot.

I steal the shape of her face, her glistening eyes – in slow motion – are kneading doughs.

‘The rose is only beautiful
when it stands

She uses her wrapper to kiss her eyes, and bring down the pot of soup.

February 18, 2021

editors note: Where we learn pot from kettle. – mh clay

How to Escape a Gut Reaction by Henry Bladon

Today the sun was too late for the sunrise and I knew
how it felt because I had to coax my body into action

I first went to the knitting shop and looked at all the wool
and thought tangled thoughts under the recessed lights

I went across the forecourt and past the bearded man
who was taking a picture of a tiny ladybird

I walked beside the cottonwood trees as they swayed in the wind
and covered all the cars with a layer of summer snow

I watched the gulls swarm ’round the uneaten remains
of fast-food cartons discarded on sun-stained grass

I thought about your fleshy lips and where we stood
on the colour wheel theory of love and how you laughed

when we stood on that bridge that time in Amsterdam
and I said I wanted to return my life but hadn’t kept the receipt

but as I sit on the wall and watch the incoming tide
I know I’m glad I never did.

February 17, 2021

editors note: No frets when no regrets. (We welcome Henry to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay

Intervals, Progressions by Susan C. Waters

An order in the house
was the aim of your voice
as it passed through rooms.

Still, I once heard you alone,
singing. You were a new songbird
found its perfect voice, weaving
from note to note, key to key

dolce, dolente

soprano coloratura
and you still clipped your fingernails
wore no jewelry, for the harp
you played when very young.

Order in the house: the weaving
of my long glossy hair into braids
as I practiced piano.

The iron stomping across the board:
tomorrow’s school dress, my father’s shirt.
And you were tired at the sink
with dishes bought with coupons,
the milk and bread of respectability.

An order in the house.
It dug into your shoulders
the way the straps of dresses did,
as you grew into the bored shape
of housewives who lived near us.

Yet, when you thought you were dying
you slept each night under stars,
beneath the rubbing harmonious spheres.
In the hammock you fixed on Lyra
and knew from the stars’ movement
the earth fell toward the next day’s light
And you wanted to stay on earth.
It had to do with order.

February 16, 2021

editors note: A sweet, sore song with which to pluck on strings of stars. – mh clay

Among Women Only by Pete Mladinic

No pretty girl will come and ask to sit at my table.
No gazelle will walk back and forth across the room,
no madonna with little crosses in her sharp black eyes.
This is a world without women. Nothing feminine
touches this floor which is cold and made of stone.
No finely shaped hand opens this door which is steel.
We men talk among ourselves. Here there are boxes
and bells to tell us when to stop and when to begin.

Sometimes I go off by myself. I go down the dock
and inside the freezer a woman dances before my mind.
I see her auburn hair, her large brown eyes, fair skin.
I hear her. She tells me she has a son with my name
and walks from table to table in the little restaurant.
She asks what I am writing. I say you, Gail, are all
I am writing. Her son and husband have no place here.
I am on a forklift moving pallets of roast beef eyes.

No fragrance, no faces like wheatfields, only frost
on boxes and voices over a loudspeaker and beef smells
inside truck carts after the trucks have been emptied.
Blocks away women with big hair, backbone, and style
mingle in the lives of other women, other men. Here
on the dock hangs a grill that kills flies and bugs
to keep them away from the meat. And in the cooler
men dressed for winter and loneliness hustle and thrive.

February 15, 2021

editors note: The cool(ed) company some keep; cold embrace, frozen meat. – mh clay

Kathy McDougal’s Boyfriend by John Dorsey

says he won’t wear a face mask
because he just can’t live in fear

someone once said live free or die

that’s where we’re lucky

now we can do both.

February 14, 2021

editors note: Ha! Stupid is an inalienable right, after all. – mh clay

••• Short Stories •••

This week’s featured read Familiar Eyes comes to us from Andy Martin.

Here’s what Short Story Editor Tyler Malone has to say about our pick-of-the-week:

“Unexpected today could be the expected yesterday from years ago.”

Here’s a tease of this lost & found love tale to get you goin’:

(photo “Running Low” by Tyler Malone)

A fierce downpour pounded the pavement outside Birmingham International Airport and lashed against my windscreen. The rear lights of the car in front lit up as a cloud of exhaust fumes gusted into the night air. Through the dissipating smoke I saw her walking towards me, dressed in a red coat and woollen hat. She placed a case on the pavement next to my cab.

I stepped outside, keeping my face down, away from the bitter rain. “Taxi?”

“Yes, please. Highbridge Road.” My last fare of the night.

Something about her accent reminded me of someone as I opened the door to let her in.

I started the engine and tried to put a face to the distinctive voice. “Been anywhere nice?”

In my rear view mirror I watched as her brow creased in thought and she removed her hat. “Ireland,” she said, and it clicked.


We were a couple fifteen years ago. That unmistakable Irish lilt brought me back to student days, gigs, drunkenly stumbling around cheap student accommodation, talking and smoking into the early hours.

“Dan.” She smiled…

Get reunited with the rest of this reunion tale 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…


Johnny O
Chief Editor

MH Clay
Poetry Editor

Tyler Malone
Short Story Editor

Madelyn Olson
Visual Editor

Mike Fiorito
Associate Editor

Leave a Reply