The Best of Mad Swirl : 12.05.21 – 12.18.21

by on December 19, 2021 :: 0 comments
Alone at Last with the Sky

“Imagination is the wide-open eye which leads us always to see truth more vividly.”

Christopher Fry

••• The Mad Gallery •••

The Curious Gifts of Desire ~ Bill Wolak

Mad Swirl welcomes back a favorite of ours, Bill Wolak. Ever since his first feature in 2015, we’ve been able to watch his art shift, expand and grow in really amazing ways and we’re thrilled with what he’s brought us this time around. His art is like an erotic fever dream and we find it simultaneously nice to look and unsettling and unusual to take in – some of them even feel more surreal the longer you look at them. Nevertheless, they all manage to make perfect sense, somehow, in some magical way that only a mad mind like Wolak’s can convey. Art that can be both sexy and weird is something that we admire at Mad Swirl and Wolak makes it look easy. Suffice it to say, we’re lifelong fans. ~ Madelyn Olson

To see all of Bill’s twisted visuals, 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 (12.12-12.18) on Mad Swirl’s Poetry Forum… we stifled the stinger, when rung through a wringer; we internet shunned while banking for fun; we flamed when near it, a kindred spirit; we froze in the stream of a gasoline dream; we morning sunned adrift in a million-dollar gift; we ran and we grew some, a free two-by-twosome; we lived in the losses of bad apple tosses. From the tree, too far, we write what we are. ~ MH Clay

Let It Be Known to All Who Will Listen by James Robert Rudolph

Crows clot in a winter garden
crowding, trading side-eyes, carping.
Parlous clouds the colors of fresh bruising
spill over distant drumlins into a soft white sky,
the horizon soon eclipsed, heaven’s weight.

The vicar’s widow back hunched,
the effect is of a Grimm’s dwarf, she picks flowers
but just the black ones, long brittle
by winter’s wind and frosts, her wicker trug
fills with boutonnieres for the damned, as she
hums, clears her throat, hums, and
hums, clears her throat, hums.

Jordy the butcher’s dog, sour and three-legged,
barks rhythmically at the edge of the old well
as children toss rotted apples to the girl who fell in
back in ‘37, chanting Mary Dell fell in the well…

So it is with dark prophecy, arriving like a
visitation without zeal or relish or accusation,
but there is accuracy, ineluctable accuracy.

December 18, 2021

editors note: What gets you must be true. Faith, beware! – mh clay

e e cummings finally grows up by Laura Byro

matthew and michael and morgan and mark
went down to the beach (skipped school on a lark)

and matthew found grass that smelled so sweetly
he couldn’t remember his troubles, and

michael befriended a Rasta-man
with dreds that became a head full of sun;

and morgan was chased by a crusty old cop
who sputtered they shouldn’t be where they were and

mark beach-combed a Roosevelt dime
from long-ago lands, and golden-days’ time

for whatever we’ve lost, my country tis of thee,
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea.

December 17, 2021

editors note: The finding is in the looking or so we sea. – mh clay

Whitney Houston Sings “Million Dollar Bill” by Isaiah Vianese

Friday morning and everything
shines like a gold coin—the sun,
you on my cell phone screen,
robe thrown open
to show your shimmering body.

What a gift to have
this time with you, handsome—
both of us undressed
and speaking our desires.
After we’ve made it rain,
bills littering our longing,

I feel rich with every sight and sigh,
the conversation that follows,
the moment I see
your million-dollar smile
as we wish each other happiness
and sign off to start the day.
We are abundant.

December 16, 2021

editors note: Make every one abundant. TGIF! (We welcome Isaiah to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay

Be gentle tonight by Mike Zone

Be my shadow
ignite the night
my nocturnal wanderer
in the shade of outer-space delight
tell me what dreams may come of fever pumped gasoline dream madness
a permissive ice cube of joy
bold heat
in the realms between us
the source of all life
born of a darkness that which does not bequeath death but bestows a universe

December 15, 2021

editors note: Astrophysics education in a shadowed shroud. – mh clay

Poets of Apotheosis by Mickey J. Corrigan

Ten men for every woman
and she turns heads
fishhooks their attention
with her high fashion, her gee-whiz
Americanisms, her palpitating desires
technically virtuoso, apropos
verse and she’s intense, whirling
planetary. None of them
man enough to share
what they won’t let her do.

Radiant, blood whet, she seethes
with impatience and lusts
for an equal without restraint
the red sun rising and closing
like the eye of some foreign god
a willing disciple in search
of a master, the poet
savage who so easily captures
the terrible beauty of death.

He’s an expert at the Ouija board
astrology, drinking cheap beer
he lures her on forays
in forests of the occult
darkness seducing them both
at one with the drive to violence
clutching, swollen after
he felt her raw bite
the animal blood running
down one chiseled cheekbone
bitten by her power, and
afraid of it he’s from the poor
north, wild and nature bound
living in squalor, practitioner
of the holy discipline she shares
his belief in the potency
the magical power of verse.

Intoxicated, she festers
joining his rebel poet clan
she finds what is missing—
the more she burns
the more she consumes
and him.

December 14, 2021

editors note: An imperfect pairing to produce perfect verse. – mh clay

Cash Flowing Assets, Part II by Christopher Calle

A Tiktok Meditation

She tells me it changed her life
That she has the profound secret to wealth

He tells me to call this cell phone number
if I am an Accredited Investor
And if not, to enroll in this class
for a limited time

I remember that people watch Facebook
to see videos of puppies falling off logs
And marvel at the highest, best use of freedom

Saving money is for suckers, I learn
You gotta put those stocks to work

The house pays for what you want
Wearing your Lambo
multifamily Ferrari
Checked shirt luggage in the front trunk

Baden Powell tells me it’s not about money
Self-indulgence or success
It’s about health and strength
And utility

Water and sun
A fishing pole
A splash of wine and ceviche

You can take that to the bank.

December 13, 2021

editors note: Motivationally speaking. Dubiously listening. – mh clay


Exactly what on earth is one to do
About the thoughtlessly persistent steep ringing

Of a desultory bell vibrant reminding
You so of stern sharp winds scouring a desolate heath

That starts as scullery-dull loud discordant clang
Admonitory in tone, c!ashing in its dissonance,

Then lo, reverberates all around the house
Like ponderings at a mighty precipice

Startling you into all-ears grating attention,
A test of prime pineapple-like endurance,

And slowly dissipates in its fervour
As afterthoughts gather momentum

And the brink of the cliff perilous situation abates
As it begins to strenuously take on

The disappointed inconsolable tone
Of the dejected ringer, that exhausted

Visiting hand that is slowly but surely
On that verge of dissuasion giving up

Expecting someone to promptly answer
With precision and champion the precious cause
Any time soon.

December 12, 2021

editors note: Both ringer and rung, through wringer till wrung. – mh clay


This past week (12.05-12.11) on Mad Swirl’s Poetry Forum… we learned the art of acting our part; we searched our perception, a cure for the question; we cat on moused to rampage house; we bad words stopped with lemon drop; we soft joys heard from unspoken words; we placed a call for a cure-all; we cooed at the moon, sweet soup from a spoon. We find rhymes, we make reasons. ~ MH Clay

Spoon by Polly Richardson (Munnelly)

We’ve been here before you and I, spooning voyages
present, beyond it all.
Coo-coocoo of mourning dove pirouettes with ears
stretches as limbs ironing out creaks,
here, this place. Spooning, ladling.
Across inky shadow growing long as dawn bids adieu
the hare stills, bathing in heated streams from sun’s yawn
dreams falling off with nights-hair swirling
with breeze to nestle on dewy grasses
there, just there- teeming life, spooning sustenance
and here this place
you call
sow into this inner lining linking breaths
as seas to sands, rams to rugged.

December 11, 2021

editors note: Such a savory soup! Open wide! – mh clay

Call her back y’all by Tess Hunt

Rhymes soothe sharp fragments

of a tattered past.

A voice in the darkness.

A question too raw yet
to digest.

The answer is love,
the stomach pains persist.

Vegan chili helps with this.

Or maybe it’s the person
behind that advice.

December 10, 2021

editors note: This recipe is right from the source. – mh clay

Keeping it quiet by Joseph Farley

The wife sleeps. She gets up at 4 AM.
It’s 9 PM and I feel guilty for being up.
I try not to make noise, just scratches on paper.

All these words are toned down
so as not to wake an early riser.
Any excitement in them
is of the quiet kind,

what you find when fishing,
or driving a country road
just to see where it goes,

or turning a page in a book
with all that thunder and gunfire
locked down into sentences,
so only you can hear it.

December 9, 2021

editors note: Reading out loud with nary a sound. – mh clay

BIRTHDAY by Vyarka Kozareva

My mood fluctuates
In the flying evening.
Of course, I like flowers.
Abundant variety
From dear friends.
But the dwarf lemon tree
Is my favorite.
It makes me happy
Radiating freshness
On my writing desk.
I remember you telling me
Lemon juice is high in citric acid.
That may cause my teeth to lose calcium.
What a willful teenager.
Admonition again and again.
Do you think
A few of these pellucid lemon tears
In my refreshing water
Will be capable to bleach
All the irretrievable offences
My mouth uttered.

December 8, 2021

editors note: Maybe, if only to make them easier to swallow. – mh clay

The Mouse Is a Chess Grandmaster by Ethan Goffman

Had that mouse been in our house forever? I remembered her tormenting our cats, dancing past them. In fact, she appeared just before we inherited Callie from my mother. “Ha,” I thought, “what horrid timing for the poor creature; our new cat will soon take care of her.” It turned out Callie was pathetic as a mouser, swift and aggressive, yes, but clumsy, pouncing blindly, swiping at empty air, as the little rodent dashed past. Even when we got Thelma, a more thoughtful and methodical hunter, the clever mouse continued to win their chess games, darting from some unexpected corner, or scuttering out from under the stove or refrigerator, taking strange, unexpected turns in mid-flight that defied the laws of physics.

My wife thinks it was not one mouse, but many, some small and bright-eyed, others browner, fatter, furrier. And there were months and years when the mouse did not appear. But I know better. If it was not the same mouse physically, growing older, more filled out, slower but wiser over the years, it was the same mouse spiritually. My wife is too hung up over the physical world, linear thinking, natural laws, to realize that the very same being has been tormenting our poor cats over all these centuries.

And now the mouse has appeared again, in the form of a cat, like a pawn that has advanced to the last row and been promoted to Queen. Now the mouse is the new Callie, small, energetic, calico yet darker, in tortoiseshell form. Instead of a filthy scourge that we fear will sicken us, she is now our best beloved. And now a new mouse—or is it the same old mouse?—has reemerged to torment her.

December 7, 2021

editors note: Mouse to Queen to Cat to Mate; the best mousetrap. (This poem comes from Ethan’s latest collection, “Dreamscapes.” Get your copy on Amazon – check it out.) – mh clay

RIPTIDE by Roger G. Singer

is the other
side of the

the space
between stones,
the sound of
words breaking
away from the

it starts early
a hand to the
while standing
on the edge of

where smoke from
a fire
walks the air,
searching for the
symptoms to be

December 6, 2021

editors note: Only way through is sideways. – mh clay

Eating Tacos with a Friar at the Grave of Jimmy Stewart by John Dorsey

for S.A. Griffin

there is no more wisdom on a hill than this
& even if you picture it in black and white
the lemonade still comes from a paper carton
& the ability to change who we are
before we all get back into our cars
to head in different directions
is the greatest acting job there is.

December 5, 2021

editors note: May the best pretenders win. – mh clay

••• Short Stories •••

If you’re lookin’ for a read, this weekend’s featured story, Sarah’s Laughter by Thomas Elson just might be the one to save ya!

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

“There are always holes in our holiness, and they’re as sexy as they seem.”

Here’s a bit of this homily to get your spirit movin’:

(photo “House of Inside Light” by Tyler Malone)

When you looked me in the eye, and, without blinking, told me it was over, I, as a friend, stopped being concerned. Even though, as a man, I worried about finagling the whole thing all these years.

But, as a priest, I am alert to lies. A major part of my job description is devoted to discerning the permutations of embellishments, minimizations, fabrications, diversions, truth stretching, and truth shrinking. Not only inside the confessional but also from the book I preach from each Sunday:

The woman gave me the fruit.

The serpent deceived me.

Where is your brother Abel? I do not know…

What we DO know is that if you are “able,” get the rest of this Mad sermon here!


If you need-a-read, we got quite the enchanting tale for you.

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

“Now for my greatest trick: making myself happy!”

Here’s a bit of The Magician by Ellis Shuman to get you mesmerized:

(photo “Magic in the Air” by Tyler Malone)

For years he sought to perform the ultimate illusion. An astounding feat that would captivate audiences. A magic trick like no other which would make them truly appreciate him and win their long overdue praise. The recognition he deserved. Just one fantastic stunt was all he needed. It had eluded him so far, but eventually it would come to him. Of this, he was certain.

He had been called to the world of magic as a young boy after seeing a television variety show. Glued to the screen, he was held spellbound. He recorded every movement in his mind so he could later recreate the tricks.

He started with “Abracadabra” performances for his family. He staged hocus pocus skits for classmates and performed at talent shows as Kid Magician—a stage name he would retain throughout his career. His first tricks were simple ones. Endless strings of colorful handkerchiefs, ropes with mysteriously disappearing knots. Taps of a magical wand and classic card tricks.

“There’s nothing up my sleeve,” he declared, his black cape swirling around him. But his classmates didn’t believe him.

“The cards are marked!” one of them said. “The deck has extra aces!” accused another.

Kid Magician would flip the cards to prove them wrong. No hidden markings, no extra aces. Despite the successful gig, the accusations of trickery hit him hard…

If you wanna get the rest of this magical read on, wave your wand and abracadabra, off you’ll go!


If you’re jonesin’ for a read, then Hemphill County in the Rearview by Contributing Writer & Poet Bruce Mundhenke will hook ya!

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

“So much from the past is already up in smoke. Breathe in; breathe out. Breathe.”

Here’s a bit of this high-time tale to get you in the weeds:

(photo “Home Totem” by Tyler Malone)

My mom had called me earlier that day to let me know that my brother Randy had called her to let her know that he was in jail down in Texas. She also told me that dad was not going to bail him out. It seemed that both him and his friend Red had been charged with possession of marijuana. I told her not to worry about it. We were on strike at the mill where I worked. I had a little money in a savings account. I told her I would drive down there and get him out.

It was 1975. Back in those days, even a small amount of weed in Texas could land you in prison. So I sat at my kitchen table with road maps of Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas in front of me. On one side of a piece of paper, I wrote down the highways I would take to get down to the Texas panhandle. On the back side of the paper, I wrote down the highways I would switch onto that would take me back to central Illinois. This was long before GPS…

If you wanna navigate to get to the rest of this story, here’s your hit!


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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