The Best of Mad Swirl : 10.31.21 – 11.13.21

by on November 14, 2021 :: 0 comments

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”

Robert Louis Stevenson

••• The Mad Gallery •••

Three-Minded Oak and Barn ~ Tony Gentry

Mad Swirl is pleased to once again welcome Tony Gentry back to the Mad Gallery with some of his chilling black and white photographs. This collection consists of photos he took along the trail near a correctional facility in Virginia, where he lives. And even without knowing that, you can just kind of… tell. The photos are simple yet haunting, seemingly rich with stories to tell. Tony has a talent for capturing nature in all its dilapidated, chaotic glory and making it look still, calm and deeply peaceful all at the same, almost as if the trees, leaves and old buildings stopped what they were doing just to pose for his camera. ~ Madelyn Olson

To see all of Tony’s mad pics, 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 (11.07-11.13) on Mad Swirl’s Poetry Forum… we child dreamed flew through three haiku; we hoped no hurt for a takeout flirt; we warm embraced in a secret place; we waxed awhile on a free-born smile; we took no loss from a number toss; we got painless words in verses from birds; we whiled our when for the same again. Didn’t we? ~ MH Clay

SAME AGAIN… by Bradford Middleton

I was stoned before it even began this particular Friday night,
Another lost to reading the word and thinking about the state
Of this life. Smoking all the way throughout this blessed day
Away from the place of work I got waylaid and upon hitting
The street, sparked another but instantly felt bored. The scene
Is how it so often is these days, virtually no one out despite
The hour now being nearly 9, but my thirst drives me on
Down the street to that tavern where I’ll spend some more of
My hard-earned cash.

As soon as I arrive I know it’s going to be nothing but a loser
Of a night; a gang of cool 20-somethings loiter outside, wearing
Shades, cool clothes, sipping their drinks. I wander on past
And get to the corner, turn and head straight for the back door.
There I find blessed relief as I push the door open and barely
No one is here. I sit at the bar and call someone over; I order
A beer and large bourbon and sit back, happy to be out and not
In the prying eye. The rest of the night passes with me just

Same again
Same again
Same again…

November 13, 2021

editors note: Approach a new night looking for the same again… – mh clay

Chronic pain by Emalisa Rose

When it’s gone,

there’s that moment
you realize

that you no longer
think about it

and sparrows

start writing you
poems again.

November 12, 2021

editors note: A sweet surprise, the sparrow’s script. (We welcome Emalisa to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of her madness on her new page – check it out.)- mh clay

THROWING NUMBERS by Ken Edward Rutkowski

I throw my number down and someone picks it up palms facing down picks it up from the ground with two hands stares at me from across the street walks back across smiling hands it to me with two hands held together palms facing up says hello number thrown down a piece of paper four hands of relief of persistence across the street we acknowledge each other I see the broken street I see the leaf fall down the River and then wonder how it is that we all meet she comes across and says hello good day two hands facing up palms to the Sky we look each other in the eye let it go let it go easy for me to do not say easy for me to let it go not say gestures not words acknowledgement recognition lucky number or inevitable circumstance I’m a man standing across the road on the same line as Ho Chi Minh the lady looks at me and wonders why I don’t take the money back she found it on the street the leaf floats down the River across the sunny Highland no hassle without asking when the woman will be back we don’t say Amen we say well fine.

November 11, 2021

editors note: Encounter well said, though not easy, amen. – mh clay

A Free-Born Smile by Susie Gharib

How can you abort
a smile that has been free-born,
that is neither cajoled nor bought,
that is not designed by a dentist who adorns,
that imparts to the onlooker a current of warmth,
that woos the worst sworn enemy with a truce,
that endows the oldest face with the glow of youth,
that makes a pair of lips eloquent without words,
that builds a bridge between nations that constantly fought,
that opens a gate into one’s innermost thoughts,
that rewrites a hasty letter with a cordial tone,
that rebukes the frowns that are the offspring of gall,
that humors a forlorn soul,
that exposes for the beloved two rows of amity’s pearls.

November 10, 2021

editors note: With those priceless pearls? How can you, indeed? – mh clay

RESCUE EFFORTS by Kevin Ridgeway

She was the first person
to whisper in my ear for years,
And her warm embrace talks
dirty to me in the eye of a storm
we share in a place
no one will ever find.

November 9, 2021

editors note: When the place is lost, you’ll be there. – mh clay

When I Ordered Takeout by Jennifer Novotney

I didn’t see him at first
tall, well-muscled, the kind of guy who would
throw me over his shoulder, run along the beach
lie me down in the sand and gently kiss my lips
the waves crashing in rhythmic beats.

As I move up in line, I can feel his eyes on me,
his stare that sends me yearning to turn around
crawls up my back, slow and deliberate
the way his hands might unbutton my shirt
slip inside to touch my soft skin.

I glance over my shoulder when I tell the cashier
exactly what I want, stand up a little taller
arch my back, a cat sauntering through a room
head cocked, hair flipped, one who knows
she is being watched.

Every time my eyes meet his, he looks away
but I catch his stare in the rounded
corner mirror, a conduit for our coquetry
that captures me as I raise the corners of my mouth
just slight enough to give him hope.

November 8, 2021

editors note: Just a flash of hope is all he needs. – mh clay

Three Haiku: Dreams and Thoughts by Padmini Krishnan

satiated in dreams
he pats his stomach
the homeless man

flying in sleep
and off his bed
rolls the toothless superman

under the roots
of ancient oak
buried childhood dreams

November 7, 2021

editors note: Dream for not homeless if not hero. – mh clay


This past week (10.31-11.06) on Mad Swirl’s Poetry Forum… we were pulled apart by opposing starts; we darkly sorted through life aborted; we felt grief flow through a memento; we heard how a harmer couldn’t bring up farmers; we tried to make nice and to strike the right price; we dipped in batter some cosmic matter; we let death keep the best of sleep. We must get it all said ‘fore we sleep with the dead. ~ MH Clay

The Bed has terminal insomnia by Richard Weaver

and no matter the excessive thread-count
of Egyptian cotton sheets, the snowy mountains
of hypoallergenic pillows. memory foam,
18-inch pillow-top, digitized rain, shiatsu
pulsing fingers with adjustable 2.5 Richter
scale vibrations, blackout curtains sheltering
double-paned light-proof windows, sound sucking
carpet, and sound-absorbing ceiling tiles
that would deafen an ancient rocker
with an AI walker, the Bed moans and groans,
flips then flops, rotates northward, true north
not magnetic, (it has heard rumors the poles
are shifting), rolls on its well-oiled casters
to a friendlier wall for comfort and support,
only to push away in repulsion at perceived
untoward advances and moisture, general itchiness,
early onset of migraine inertia, and the fantods
in general. Such is its sad, sleepless existence.
Its starched life in an unrelenting limbo.
Were you to dissect the mattress you would find it
filled with every known sleep aid ever imagined,
historical to New Age. All compounds new and costly.
Oddly named herbs, finely ground insects, tree barks,
dried aquatic sea-life, with fins or with shell,
jellyfish or whale, hummingbird semen captured
mid-flight, or mule zygotes, taken any which way.
When you are desperate, dying in mind and body,
untethered from the mons of earth, disassociated
by light and darkness; when degrees of separation
have been reduced to less than zero, ought not one
give up the ghost, let go the blackened torch,
and do the adequate thing: accept with open arms
the insomnia of death, and be comforted at last

November 6, 2021

editors note: How we turn from the day when our sleep number is up. – mh clay

HOW I LOVED by Ricky Garni

Onion rings as a child. And how I love them now.
I mean if anyone were to ever make them for me
but they don’t. Sometimes I look at Saturn and wonder
what it might look like without onion rings, and
whether or not Saturn tastes yummy, and
who, of course, would eat the onions. Sometimes

I even think I am Saturn, and my rings are solid
and doing well, drawn a hundred years ago by
a blind child who drew a spaceship in
the sand.

November 5, 2021

editors note: A salty selection from the Solar System snack tray. What’s yours? – mh clay

New Corner Road Side Store Awning by Robert Fleming

a working girl has UNOPPORTUNITY
John u pass my corner
John u enter a bar
John u spend ur $ on Johnny
on payday John save ur $ 4 me
im yours 4 15 minutes
still on 5th & Main Street corner duty
if i could get the price is right corner
1-night in the contestant’s row bid
1-week in the showcase showdown
today’s mark-down: pay 4 a hand get a mouth
not in america
america is still mayflower-ing
i return to my corner & bend
my hips

November 4, 2021

editors note: No breaks for the oldest profession during an inflated economy. (We welcome Robert to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay

​Out to Pasture by Nico/Niko

​a crooked villanelle after Roy Clark on The Muppet Show

Brighter and brighter, red barn on rock burned. Dog raised hell hawing at the weather vane. What happened? Like Dad. Daughters never learned.

Farmer was inherently proud he earned crop, stock, and girls to raise up in his reign. Cigar too tragic, warning on rock burned

stable as his marooned moon saddles yearned. In red state, his possessions grew like stain. What happened? Spot stops. Trope girls never learned.

He teased strings of second fiddles spurned. His bible belt dealt strikes with disdain.
Devil liar to trail lived there and burned.

One beat the dough while butter was churned. Smoky flour cloud covered up glass pane. What happened put up with line farther learned.

Only the cock and mule could have discerned the result of making his girls refrain
as 50 shades of barn’s bright-red pain burned. Like what happened, Dad? Doubters never learned.

November 3, 2021

editors note: A treatise on the farming crisis. – mh clay

Mementos by Tony Gentry

We say “passed”
as if they’d tossed a football.

Some use “transitioned”
so you imagine a Star Trek
transporter beam.

It doesn’t help.

Lately, it seems
not a month goes by

until I hear myself tell the kids,
“You want a reliable career?
They’re called funeral directors now.”

I need to get out, get on with it.
Live on in their name, as we say.

But it does get lonely in here.

Like when you think of a joke
that only they’d get
and look around to finger
some trinket left behind.

November 2, 2021

editors note: When the passed stay and stay. – mh clay

Darkness by Trier Ward

Born in blessed darkness,
Born in a bloody field,
Born without eyes,
Born without a shield. . .
You can take all my clothes,
you can read that last
misinterpret every word,
but you know-
my children are half me
and if you hate me,
then you hate them.
We are all one blood.
There’s no way out
in this world.
Born to wretched providence,
Born to reckless happenstance,
Born with no limbs,
Born with no lips-
it does not matter when
because it will
all happen again
until this birth aborts . . .

November 1, 2021

editors note: A legacy of longevity arrested and unborn. – mh clay

Transparency by KJ Hannah Greenberg

All doctrines, attenuated or variable, define equivalence between
Real world cognizable properties and mental powers of knowing.
Key facets of reality, thus, become transparent.

Utilitarian similitude exists amid the studies of pragmatics/semantics;
Communication contours as it is shaped by philosophy (these modes
Of making meaning rely upon each other.)

Still, binaural separation, in our heads, stays costly. We can’t process
Select constructs while ignoring others. Disparate ideologies continue
To plague our collective serenity.

October 31, 2021

editors note: A clear view to the core of your cognitive dissonance. – mh clay

••• Short Stories •••

This weekend’s featured read, The Kiss comes to us from longtime Contributing Writer & Poet Harley White!

Here’s what Short Story Editor Tyler Malone has to say about this pick’o the weekend:

“It ends, it always does, and never the way it’s supposed to. For the best and worst, that’s the end. But there’s the beginning…”

(photo “A Kiss: An End/A Beginning” by Tyler Malone)

If you’ve been reading along with Harley’s “Sleeping Beauty” series, wake up because you do not wanna miss “The Kiss!


If you’re hungerin’ for a read, The Chinese Restaurant in Moosonee, Ontario by longtime Contributing Poet Marianne Szlyk will chase away those pangs!

Here’s what Short Story Editor Tyler Malone has to say about this pick’o the weekday:

“Have a taste of what’s new: what you’ve always tasted for so long.”

Here’s a few bites to get you goin’:

(photo “Taste of What’s Called China” by Tyler Malone)

Along the wide, empty street out of town, away from the railroad station, the red storefront gleams. It’s a welcome sight among the plate glass and faded displays of canned beans, motor oil, tools, or decades old sewing patterns, depending on the store. It is also a welcome sight beneath the infinite sky, beside the bay that is just the gateway to Hudson’s Bay, to the real Arctic.

You might as well go into the restaurant where you find darkness, warmth, low ceilings, red and gold wallpaper embossed with dragons, all that is missing at the Gateway to the Arctic. You speak to Gordon the waiter with his Canadian accent.

White, unchipped bowls and plates stand at each place setting beneath the astrological placemats. You are relieved to see that your birth year is still the year of the dragon. The water tastes strange, so Gordon recommends an icy can of Coke or a bottle of Molson’s. But you can still drink the same black tea that made your mouth pucker in Central Square in Cambridge. You can still drink it for free just as you did at Larry’s Restaurant…

Dig on into the rest of Marianne’s story right here!


If this day has you feelin’ like you Need-a-Read, Listless may be exactly what you’re lookin’ for.

Here’s what Short Story Editor Tyler Malone has to say about this pick’o the weekend:

“Lost is always where we find ourselves, so maybe that’s what’s meant to be.”

Here’s a bit of C E Hoffman’s rant to get you ramped up:

(photo “Jittery Ride” by Tyler Malone)

Beatnicks. Road kill. Submissives.

A thinning ozone with polar slush on the side.

Rape/abduction fantasies; the penitentiary; amphetamines and variety shows.

The world bulldozes by, totally oblivious that I’m trying to sleep.

Thoughts are as heartless as facts or feelings.

You wake up; dreams are kicked into yesterday; you wake up and you think you’ve slept in; it’s 6:25 AM.

To-do lists; groin kicks. There’s a wall in my head, in between the limbic system and, um, that other one.

Wi-fi connections; pregnancy tests.

To-do lists.

Why did I come back? Whatever stopped me from turning my life into a Hold Steady song* (or a Quentin Tarantino film**)?

I’m stranded in a sea of corpses, a blanket of pearly bones.

I’ve got a lot to do, but my brain won’t sit long enough to make a list…

Can you brain sit long enough to read the rest of this streaming madness? If so, wander on over here and ramble on!


Mad Swirl’s midweek featured read, At the Fruit Store by James Lawless, is a apropos snapshot of this mixed bag pandemic world we live in. Check it out…

Here’s what Short Story Editor Tyler Malone has to say about this pick’o the weekday:

“As close as you think you can get, it’s still far. It’s still further than ever before”

Check it out right here!

(photo “Undergrowth, Overgrowth” by Tyler Malone)

••• Open Mic •••

If you joined Mad Swirl Open Mic this past 1st Wednesday of November (aka 11.03.21) at our OC home, Barbara’s Pavillion, you know that we celebrated our 17th year by whirlin’ up the Swirl and gettin’ the Mad mic opened for all you Mad ones out there!

Here’s a shout out to all who graced our stage (LIVE & VIRTUAL) with your words, your songs, your divine madness…

Johnny O
MH Clay

Musical Overture:
(ol’ s’cool) Swirve (Chris & Tamitha Curiel, Gerard Bendiks)

Round One:
Atenea Afrodita
Alan Gann
Anthony Ripp
Josh Weir
Harry McNabb
David Crandall
Marianne Szlyk
Ethan Goffman
Martin Hache
Jenean McBrearty
Giulio Magrini
Mike Zone
Dick Zinnendorf/Forensics Theatricals

HUGE grats to ALL the participators & appreciators who rode the Mad wave from Barbara’s as well as our FB Live feed! We know you have a few choices of what to do with your Wednesday night & you picked to hang out with lil ol’ us us!

Be safe & ’til next 1st Wednesday (aka 12.01.21)… may the madness swirl your way!

Johnny O

P.S. In case you missed the LIVE feeds, your eye can spy on these virtual Swirl’n scenes right here…

••• Mad Reviews •••

Another Mad Review: “Hesitancies by Sanjeev Sethi

I read Hesitancies, front to back, for the first time while on vacation in the first half of August. We were relaxing in the Caribbean and reading this collection fell right into the easy groove of random associations; tied to sun, sand, rum-based beverages, and introspection. I have read it more times since then, finding many poems that resonate with me personally. I like how Sanjeev Sethi’s poetry makes me look inward while gazing into his own psyche. This collection does that well with a common thread throughout.

The title, Hesitancies, holds the clue to that thread. I note that a handful of poems (7, to be precise) have the word “hesitancies” in their texts. I appreciate the progression of the poems as biography/confession, observation, and inspiration; Sanjeev Sethi uses his personal condition to illustrate our human condition. The message throughout encourages me to overcome my own hesitancies to engage, take risks, embrace failure as the impetus to growth – and lighten up a little, laugh at myself a little, have faith!

I wanted a dialogue with the poet after my 3rd or 4th read of the collection, so I initiated one…

Dig the dialogue between Poetry Editor MH Clay and Poet Sanjeev Sethi 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 bein’…


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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