The Best of Mad Swirl : 03.23.24

by March 24, 2024 0 comments

I am awaiting / perpetually and forever / a renaissance of wonder

Lawrence Ferlinghetti

••• The Mad Gallery •••

AI Word Oracle ~ Mitchell Pluto

To see all of Mitchell’s vibrantly crafted collage illustrations, as well as our other resident artists (50+ 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 trained breath takers as baby makers; we kept a hoard of unused boards; we self-arc learned, no stone unturned; we broke from before to forward move more; we cancered all for boobs recall; we holy wholed not god controlled; we would bespoke the perfect poke. In our good standing, we stick the landing. ~ MH Clay

Pristine vaccine by Timothy Pilgrim

Years stacked up, I tequila,
repeated nips, throat
the whole bottle. A lifetime
of long needles numbs my arms —
polio, rubella, pox. Measles,
mumps, DPT. For ancient drooler;
pneumonia, flu, covid, shingles,
RSV. Stuck full, handed more years
only to see racists murder blacks,
dimwits riot in D.C., wackos kill
from cars, vermin gun down kids
in class. I pass out, drunk — dream
a pristine vaccine given at birth
to every being. Hate withers, dies,
dark skin is in. Boys and men
never bully, waste, whack, slay.
Gone, funerals, aftermaths —
also grief, all this pain. Fascists
grow up tolerant, giving, kind.
Teen males, peaceful, sensitive,
loving, warm. I wake hung-over,
I puke away war.

March 23, 2024

editors note: If one stick could render incapable, no need for immunity. We wish! – mh clay

holy poem, after the death of god by Guest Poet John Sweet

snow all afternoon but
nothing is made beautiful

no one is considered holy

at some point
the last city is built
and then there is only slow decay

sons are shot and
daughters raped and all of
the missing are given names

and some of them come home
while others are martyred
and there is always the threat of
another religion

of the crippled
leading the blind and
of a war that everyone can
believe in

a way to kill only the
truly deserving

and how much of your life are
you willing to waste
making these decisions?

March 22, 2024

editors note: No more pissant prophets leading impotent attacks. A waste indeed! – mh clay

Sub for Social Studies by Pete Mladinic

“Do you think I need you?
I need you like I need cancer.”
What brought that on?
He looked like a white wall,
bald, eyes set far back, big hands, burly.
I don’t know what we’d done or not done
to make him say cancer.
I was sitting close to the wall, in back,
a sunny day, our room on the third floor,
Mr. O’Shea up front.
Mostly the eyes, not looking at us,
invited us to linger.
No one came up and took his hand,
or asked for an apology,
or looked out a window at cars
parked on a side street
that, ten years later,
was named for a beloved teacher
who died suddenly in a classroom
empty of students.
We sat still, Mr O’Shea,
sans clenched fists, stood
looking ready for a barroom brawl.
I think he said “need you like I need a cancer
running through my body.”
The logical question, did he have cancer?
Did he recently learn he had cancer?
Or someone in his family?
Isn’t that what cancer does?
If the battle becomes a losing battle,
it runs through a body,
as it was to do years later
in my father’s body, and in the bodies of
other fathers, mothers, brothers and sisters.
Before Mr. O’Shea came into my life
I was a 13 year old freshman.
I remember, outside Algebra,
I’d always see this girl, Debra Cirhocki,
a junior. I knew her name. Her brother
Jeff was in my freshman class.
Debra, a permed wavy blonde,
face of a teen Kim Novak,
boobs that today I’d call striking.
Back then, push up bras, popular,
made Debra even more striking.
She was tall, not terribly tall,
but tall and straight, she seemed.
In the crowded hall, outside Algebra,
I was always looking up at her,
in a tight sweater, those stupendous boobs.
We never spoke,
I don’t think she knew who I was.
I got to know her younger sis
a little, who, though pretty, wasn’t striking.
Years later, a school reunion at a Radisson,
in a cozy bar, I asked Jeff about,
got up the nerve to ask about, Debra.
She’d battled cancer, and had died
ten years earlier. I remember,
2:15 in Social Studies, Mr. O’Shea,
a white shirt, a loose necktie, a sneer,
years before the pink ribbons.

March 21, 2024

editors note: Things we think about when we think about cancer… (Congratulations to Pete! He has a new collection out now: Voices from the Past. You can get your copy here.) – mh clay

Before by Guest Poet Barbara Hughes

violence is shadows others expect
peeling off your dark layers, black at flowering time
the fear of black

bone black

paradise rained hard, and
we might have lived and died without knowing
and longing up

toward the stars

you have built in me an anger that scratches
like a prickly branch every minute of my day
celestial fury

reddens the sky

I put no faith in the God you try to force upon me
life is simple you said, find where the sky meets the sea
and blow me salty kisses

the sea is one long sigh

I let myself sink for a time in the cool gray
It seems so insane now. Finally, it feels unclear
In my mouth, with your breath

It goes and goes

March 20, 2024

editors note: Break away from before, move forward a little more. – mh clay

OMPHALOS by Mel Waldman

Blood-red omphalos on the side of the road

almost hidden
behind the mutilated moribund trees,

You reveal only a Lilliputian arc of yourself,
glowing religious stone & holy presence that

you are,

& still, I feel you
& know you,

in my strange unfathomable vision-
in a glimmer of celestial light

coming forth
from the center of the earth or perhaps,

the cosmological hub of an unearthly place
of my own beautiful & grotesque creation

March 19, 2024

editors note: This one is definitely not to be left unturned. – mh clay

Ode to My Washer-Dryer by Marianne Szlyk

Stacked in a closet, heart of our ranch house,
you run through the night while I grade papers
read clickbait chew gum to stay awake.

Washer, you take all my clothes, even
the new pale green shirt that looks like silk.
Washed in cold water it doesn’t fade doesn’t tear.

Dryer, you take out wrinkles. I can trust
my linen pants to you. They will not shrink.
Even in hot weather I will glide to Metro.

Thirty years ago I would have dragged out
the iron Mom gave me, put in a little water
plugged it in and waited and waited.

I feared the iron’s mark on white silk blouses
black linen skirts. I feared the wrinkles
that co-workers with spiral curls would see.

But we own a house. I teach school. No time
for irons, no time for makeup. Our machine
thrums past midnight, steady heart of our house.

Never used, a small Ikea ironing board
leans against stacks of slides
and board games in our shed.

March 18, 2024

editors note: The things we need to keep life wrinkle-free (and the things we don’t). – mh clay


Fourteen anxious men,
fourteen pregnant women,
sit on the floor
in a bare room
on the third floor of the hospital,
work on their breathing.

Inhale, admit air,
feel it load up the lungs,
press against the ribs,
then let it go.

A woman stands at the open door,
toting her child,
comfortably, cozily,
as if having a baby
is as easy as applauding yourself.
Future first-time parents look up at her
like nervous college seniors
in awe of a recent graduate.

Then they return to their exercises,
more forceful, more deliberate,
than before.
They’ve just seen what can happen
when you breathe.

March 17, 2024

editors note: Baby? Breathe to the level of your hands. – mh clay

••• Short Stories •••

Sneak a peek at today’s featured read,Curfew by Contributing Writer & Poet, Mel Waldman.

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

The world is out there, you gotta go into it, deep. But it could get you. And that’s living.

Shades of Shadow ~ Tyler Malone

When night falls, I sit on my balcony and gaze at the streetlamp below. A week ago, I kissed Maria beneath its globe. A cop, with a twisted smile, arrived and warned us that the curfew would soon begin. Anyone found on the street would be arrested…

Spy your lil eye on the rest of this tale right here!

••• Mad Swirl Open Mic •••

Join Mad Swirl this 1st Wednesday of April (aka 04.02.24) when we’ll be doin’ the open mic voodoo that we do do at our OC home, BARBARA’S PAVILLION!

Hosts Johnny O & MH Clay will open the mad mic, starting with some musical grooves brought to you by Swirve (Chris & Tamitha Curiel, Gerard Bendiks).

This month we will be featuring the Mad dynamic duo, Opalina & Carlos Salas!

Come one.

Come all.

Come to participate…

(preRSVP at our Facebook event page or send a message to

Come to appreciate…

(join us LIVE at Barbara’s Pavillion- located at 323 Centre St, Dallas -OR- tune in to our Facebook LIVE feed starting at 8pm)

Come to be a part of this collective creative love child we affectionately call… Mad Swirl!

••• Mad Swirl Merch •••

If you have asked yourself, “Self, what does Mad Swirl do with the proceeds from their book & merch sales?” we have just the answers to your query…

The Mad Staffers periodically gets together to discuss projects we want to do to extend the Mad radius of the Swirl. We feel its current pulling & compelling us to do more. But it takes resources, like dough, to do so.

Here are just a few of the projects we will be accomplishing in 2024:

  • Publish more books: Our online presence is wide, deep and dynamic. This year we will be publishing more books from our Contributing Poets & Writers.
  • Updates to We want to make our site even more interactive & easier for all Swirlers to navigate the poetry, short stories, art & events that color our Swirl world.
  • Launch our Podcast: Mad Swirl is producing a quarterly podcast, “Inside the Eye!” where we will be interviewing one of our a Contributing Mad ones. We will also chat with our editors & get their highlights from the quarter & chat a bit about our 1st Wednesday open mics & the launching of upcoming print projects.

Now that you know what we do with all our proceeds, wanna help us out?

To date, Mad Swirl has funded our projects from our book & merch sales, as well as out of our own pockets. To accomplish the projects listed above, we need help from other Mad lovers of all things Swirly.

One way to help the Mad causes is to buy one (or MORE!) of our Mad Swirl Press books.

Another way is to get you some Mad Merch.

Now go get you some books & merch, knowing you’re helping the Mad Swirl cause!


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…


Johnny O
Chief Editor

MH Clay
Poetry Editor

Tyler Malone
Short Story Editor

Madelyn Olson
Visual Editor

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