The Best of Mad Swirl : 01.13.24

by January 14, 2024 0 comments

Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.

Cecil Beaton

••• The Mad Gallery •••

Willie Nelson ~ Doug Mac

Mad Swirl is excited to start off the new year by welcoming a new artist to the Mad gallery, with grotesque and gritty work that only a real mad man himself could scheme up — and that mad man is Doug Mac. With an unmistakable style (reminiscent of Ed Roth, but still uniquely his own), Doug creates colorful and cartoon-ish scenes that seem to get better the longer you look at them. With an attention to detail so fine that each eyebrow hair or tooth seems to want to be noticed, there’s certainly enough to look at, and yet still, we just can’t get enough! Have a look-see for yourself right here. ~ Madelyn Olson

To see all of Doug’s colorful and cartoon-ish scenes, as well as our other resident artists (60 and counting!) take a virtual stroll thru Mad Swirl’s Mad Gallery!

••• The Poetry Forum •••

This last week on Mad Swirl’s Poetry Forum… we waxed ethereal on things sidereal; we wintered dread with gun to head; we autumn walked through liars’ talk; we acted out rashly with counter burned hashly; we prophets bribed for our names scribed; we were rule breakers, upset the rule makers; we went god-baiting, tired of god-waiting. Cuz, nobody waits for us. ~ MH Clay

GODOT by Vern Fein

Read: India, 58,000 deaths from
poison snake bites last year,
mostly rural men, women, and children.


Read: 2,000 Afghani pregnant women
housed in tents in Germany.


Read: Thousands of Haitians
crushed by earthquake and storm
flock to the border to be sent away.


Read: Millions die world-wide
from a virus that re-creates
itself with different masks.


Read: Pollution devours air, soil, water,
and spits fire across the land.

GODOT, still waiting for

January 13, 2024

editors note: Apparently, it’s how we wait that matters. – mh clay

Morality by Sanjeev Sethi

Those who’re in concert with all schools of music
are with none in a go-for-broke sort of way. Or they
are paltering. Excellence dwells in exceptionalism.
There isn’t one definition of privilege. It is a pivot
of the panorama. Brusque interjections by the self
to a well-thought-out spiel on future grooves leave
me irate. It’s like theodicy: it hurts no one except
those who are in line for it.

January 12, 2024

editors note: It’s excellent if I say it is. GET BACK IN LINE! – mh clay

Our Names Scribed by James D. Casey IV

on the inside of angels’ eyelids
written in ink made of dirt
from under god’s fingernails

mixed with satan’s sweat
and the blood of our unborn selves

lost souls in transit
in need of a miracle
lilting down the chin
of a celestial face

in tears wept for us
chasing pretty lies
along wrinkles of time

shame on martyrs
with papercut cheeks
pretending pain
doesn’t hurt

we are salt in their wounds

January 11, 2024

editors note: If you want to be published in that Book, you’ll need to find a good agent. – mh clay

Burned hash on counter by Mike Zone

Spreading my wings
Jumping off Desolation Peak
the property company can keep their deposit
making it that much harder to furnish bright shiny things for privileged soon to sputter and drool in this now gentrified suburban hellhole…
tell me though
who will work in your restaurants
preparing your GMO and sugar salt saturated flavorless meals?
Who will work your stores to be berated for ringing up or not ringing up
bright shiny things
when they can barely afford the bus?
Let alone a car?
But the unions are on strike
Insurance whatever the fuck they actually do are on strike
so as everything goes up and you gnash your teeth wondering why the poor won’t participate and refuse to mingle scoffing at those losers who want to strike too
it’s all on you
can’t put a gun to someone’s head
already dead

January 10, 2024

editors note: That G-thing stands for “Gutted” for some. – mh clay

An autumn day like this by Ndue Ukaj

The latest news starts as beautiful tales:
It was once a time of hope and a happy city.

Now there is smoke, fog, and grief stones.

People walk around confused, drink coffee with ghosts,
and make confession to them as Constantine* did
when he brought Doruntina to his mother.

Across the narrow streets, thoughts are narrow
and fall down: also those who make their eyes four.

There was once a time when we expected freedom from the news.
Now the news reveals shadows and tarnishes freedom.

Beyond the horizon in the steep mountains, snow,
and an endless winter frost.

One autumn day, like this one,
with excess freedom of imagination, with
beautiful women playing in the beautiful autumn leaves.
Meanwhile, across the screens,
a gang of politicians blur their intentions.

One autumn day, like this autumn day,
unscrupulous people walk empty streets.
They abort freedom and appear every evening on our big screens.

Before eyes that see nothing in the fog,
they demonstrate how the kingdom of madness is formed.

At the end of one autumn day,
I stopped the clock. And through the window
I saw many silhouettes, upset people in an upended city
of troubled women
and the troubled children of a handful of very happy politicians.

(Translated from the Albanian by Edita Kuçi Ukaj)

*Constantin and Doruntine, or Constantin’s Besa, is an Albanian ballad and legend.

January 9, 2024

editors note: You can fool some of the people some of the time… (We welcome Ndue to our crazy congress of Contributing Poets with this submission. Read more of his madness on his new page – check it out.) – mh clay

Death of a Winter by Guest Poet Heath Brougher

Spring leaps forth causing April to unexpectedly
rescue the deadened Spirits from the dismal
cotton skies of prison-colored clouds
made of wounded wicker and withered wisteria.

Soon, plants and orioles awaken
and once more the cinereous skies
will be rebleached in blue and boldly blonde
locks of life. Pistols are removed
from the sides of foreheads
and put back into the hollowed-out bibles
from which they came. A tiny portion
of leverage and pressure plays
an enormous role in whether
a sapient and sensitive creature’s blood
continues to flow within its fleshy cage, or not.

January 8, 2024

editors note: If only we can make it to March… – mh clay

Birth of Stars by Harley White

The birth of stars in cosmic skies
could life and death epitomize,
and though we’re but a dot in space,
our earthly home with azure face
might mirror all that lives and dies.

The morning rays that luminize
in shining golden lantern guise
may seem in day’s ascent to trace
the birth of stars.

For suns shall set and others rise
through midwife Mother Nature wise
who cradles all in vast embrace,
while through her everlasting grace
brings from sidereal demise
the birth of stars.

January 7, 2024

editors note: The Mighty Midwife brings them forth, then uses their leftover dust to make us. – mh clay

••• Short Stories •••

If you’re itchin’ for an unusual lesson, Uncle Bob’s Brief (But Not Brief Enough) History of West Paterson: A Transcription by Contributing Writer & Poet Jeff Grimshaw is sure to find ya learnin’ a thing… or two!

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

Nostalgia is the end of history, and we experience it every damn day more and more.

Here’s how this history lesson starts off:

Hanging Out, Hanging On ~ Tyler Malone

There was an ice house down by the riverbank & they delivered blocks of ice door to door, which were chopped from the river in wintertime. Before the (so-called) Great War they were delivered in horse drawn wagons, then in trucks. We’re talking about 50 pounders you held with huge ice tongs that looked like medieval torture devices. You see them in scratchy old black-and-white movies. I guess they were comedies. They got that rinky-dink this-is-a-comedy music anyway. Big bruisers with derbies or those dopey cloth caps, hauling them up wooden stairs, however many flights of stairs it took. You could hear the steps splinter in your head even if the movies were silent.

Anyhow time goes by, they figured out refrigerators, and that was that. Then it was a warehouse for pinball machines, & a couple wars later it was The Blue Moon Grill. Sooner or later everything vanishes or turns into a tiki bar. There was a bath house on McBride Avenue. They had what they called Turkish Baths, though this one I think was run by Russians. Turkish baths are Turkish the same way Turkish Taffy is Turkish. This was before West Paterson seceded from Paterson. My grandpa had a job there when he was a kid. He would pour water over hot coals to make steam. Stuff like that. And they had metal steam boxes where fat men would sweat off ten pounds at a time, like cartoon hippos.

Now they are changing the name of West Paterson to something else, Woodland Park or Woodland West, taking Paterson totally out of the picture so nobody will know where it came from and Paterson can never snatch it back. It’s like cauterizing a severed leg. I know in real life you cauterize the stump and throw away the leg, but you get the point. You ever wonder what happens to the arms and legs they amputate? Most likely we should file that one under don’t ask if you don’t want to know the answer…

If you’re stumped, take the whole twisted course right here.


Our latest featured read, Ben Lee Holley’s Top Five Most Haunted Locations in Northern Alabama by Karl Koweski is sure to spookily spoof you!

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

Good heavens, there’s a lot of Hell on Earth!

Here’s numero uno:

Welcome to a New World but Not a New Life ~ Tyler Malone

1. Crybaby Hollow

Suck Egg Road in Guntersville, Alabama

This long stretch of two-lane blacktop best known for being the back way connecting the wet county where the bars, grab-a-grannies, and cold beer stores are located to the dry county where I keep my house trailer on a spit of land in the Hope’s Bluff community. Due to the lack of streetlights and the narrow width and overall curvature of the road, driving down Suck Egg Road at 3am with a skinful of booze is a dicey proposition, especially once you reach Crybaby Hollow near Hogjaw Creek. A generation ago, a woman and her eleven-month-old child got themselves killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Locals tell it, during the witching hour you can hear the ghostly wail of an inconvenienced toddler. If you leave an unwrapped Baby Ruth candy bar on the shoulder of the road near the hollow, it will be gone by morning. Now, I drive that road drunk all the time, usually at an anxious 85 mph with Colter Wall at full volume cause the last thing I wanna hear is some crying kid who ain’t even alive. I’ve lost track how many roadkill varmints I’ve seen with candy bars hanging out of their furry yaps. Make of this what you will, I just wish the police didn’t have to set up checkpoints along the main thoroughfare…

Dig into #2 – #5 right here.

••• Mad Swirl Press •••

Our first issue, a self-titled zine, was published in 1999. Thru the years we published six issues of our Mad Swirl zine. On this quarter century anniversary, we’ve digitized these back issues for your trip down memory lane. Check out these OG back issues: 1999-2008…

Fast forward to today…

Starting in 2017 we got the print itch again and began publishing “The Best of Mad Swirl” anthologies, as well as a few other poetic gems for some mighty talented folks we know. If you haven’t snagged you a copy yet, here’s your one-stop-shop. Purchase one (or all) of these anthologies from Mad Swirl Press: 2018-2023…


The whole Mad Swirl of everything to come keeps on keepin’ on… NOW! Every second, every minute, every hour, every day, every week, every month, every year, every decade, every EVERY there is! Wanna join in the mad conversations going on in our Mad Swirl’s World? Then come by whenever the mood strikes! We’ll be here…

Bein’ Daring, Different & Impractical…

Johnny O
Chief Editor

MH Clay
Poetry Editor

Tyler Malone
Short Story Editor

Madelyn Olson
Visual Editor

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