John Zedolik

Safe to Reason                                                                             


You emerge from a hole,
and your parents’ act of sex
will remain to be forgotten—

or shivered at in shame—
if you should happen
to consider your dark

creation, which is quotidian
for every creature, so shudder
not at previous passion,

in your year zero, of those
precedent genes that, twining,
sent you on your unchosen way

from that moist warm hollow
of meeting that offered egress,
a chance at light air, so accept

the inception while you wander
with their doubly helical strands
aware until you are drawn back

into the recess not for the squeamish.


C.M. Mattison

The Beatnik Cowboy

vortices of spiraling memories
disperse within the time tunnels
of his mind, echoing back to him
as if his heart were an empty cavern
stretching from hell to eternity
more of his life ahead of him than behind
He goes amongst the throng of humanity
his youthful face and age make him invisible
alone and craving the fuel of cognizant exchange
the fire of spirited conversation
his mind bleeds with the need of the human touch,
youth intoxicatingly dynamic
a parade of thorn-winged emotion
which plagues it's tortured flight
the fusion of inhibitions newly freed
with a stream of loveless anonymity
perpetually hollow within the wanting
ablaze with desires soon flown...
Oh proud display this fallen cause!

Rose Bedrosian


Working in the background
like software downloading:
You look like a sack tied in
the middle, she sneers.
Your ass is as big as a barn.
Did her mother speak to her
this way? She seems to think
it’s useful, these relentless
corrections. She seems to
think it’s her duty, in case
you slipped for a minute,
caught someone pretty in
the mirror. She seems to think
it’s funny, because her eyes
twinkle, and she smiles, and
when your face crumples she
chides, I’m just kidding! Gaw!
As if it’s your moral failing that
you can’t take a joke. As if you
don’t understand what it means
to be a good mother, as you make
the mental note to never do this
to yours. She may think it’s ribbing,
but you’ve got the antidote. You won’t be
cribbing from her notes. Cycle broken.


we were barely in our double digits
that hot summer visiting our cousins
in what my mother derisively called
“the sticks,” everywhere dust and
parched grass, we kids chained
for an icy drink in a perspiring glass,
sweat a rivulet between my newly
mounded breasts, the adults forget
the painful awareness of our teen
bodies (“nothing I haven’t seen”
declares my dad), or they just don’t
care, when they insist we combat
the triple digits in the above-ground
pool, when of course no one has
thought ahead and had us bring
our suits, so topless, and all I see is
baby fat and nippled hills captured
by the callous photographer in stills,
embarrassment a different sort of chill

Alan Catlin

Journey to the Center of the Earth

She looked
like she
thought this
was her last
journey to
the center of
the earth
That nothing
was going
to move her
once she sat
down not even
a bomb
She hadn't
counted on
the floor
leaping up
to catch her
when she

Preacher Allgood

good things to own

a rust bucket flathead Ford and a well-honed block plane
a brass slide trombone in a case that smells like the jazz clubs used to smell

and four or five acres that don’t carry a mortgage
and a “free-to-a-good-home” sway back donkey
and a garage sale Stetson they let go for a dime

sometimes you know when something fits in your life
sometimes you don’t and it slips away before you do
like twenty-two months of sobriety

like the trench art cannon shell your granddad brought home from WWI
or the book of Walt Whitman poems he read and then read again
while the tremors of Parkinson’s ravaged his life

and then there’s the one thing you will never own but you wish you could
the thing Walt Whitman wove into those poems before he sent them into the world
the thing your granddad tried to give you, but you turned your back

Jeff Weddle

Or Gram Parsons

The quickest way to lose me
is to write about
a finch, a wren, or a snowy egret.

I mean, for fuck’s sake.

Don’t write about a sparrow
and expect me to be happy.

If it has to be about a bird,
make it about a penguin
or a chicken
or David Crosby
with his variant spelling.
Vultures are sometimes fine,
but for the love of God,
read the room.

The quickest way to wither
is to write about flowers, any sort.

dewy grass.

Shoot the flowers
out of a cannon, maybe.

Let them knock a bird
right out of the sky.

Let a cat be waiting.

That’s the show.
That’s how it’s done.

Bye bye, birdie.

That’s when I’ll
be back. 

Jodie Baeyens

Don’t Fall


I tell you, “Don’t fall in love with me.”

What I mean is –

Don’t build me up on a pedestal

Imagining everything I am


Don’t tell me I’m your goddess

Your princess

Your muse

Yet never get to know me


Don’t blame me

When the cracks in the pedestal show

And you realize

I haven’t lived up to

The story you wrote


If you are going to love me

Love me a little at a time

For who I really am


Someone standing too close to the paintings

Because she refuses to wear glasses


Someone who gets lost

Coming back from the bathroom

And talks during movies


Drinks coffee at 8 P.M.

Only to complain that she can’t sleep


Loves the Mets like a religion

Without being able to name a single player


Who remembers tiny details about you

And forgets the huge things


Don’t fall in love with me

Falling is a quick movement

Out of control

An accident


If there ever comes a time

When you love me

Let it be





Don’t fall head over heals

Don’t fall at all

Just take a step

J.J. Campbell

the joy of cheating death
white knuckled down another
back road in the sticks
as fast as you can, lights off
only destiny awaits
and as many times as i thought
i was going to die
there was just as many times
that i felt the joy of cheating
but youth is wasted on the
and now my knees won't let
me get into one of those fast
cars anymore
my mother doesn't understand
the depression these days
i laugh, mention something
about naming me after the two
biggest assholes she's ever known
and then acting surprised at how
it all turned out
these are the nights of bent
spoons and dirty needles
i want to be one of the lucky
ones and die with the needle
still in my arm
maybe melt into my bed and
rest comfortably for the first
time in years
the girl i lost my virginity to
killed herself a few years later
i don't believe in coincidences

Randall K. Rogers

The Shape of Things to Come II

It’s 2042 and I’m eighty years old. I was born in 1961. I’ve seen a lot in my eighty years and I’d like to talk about or tell you about how things are different now than they were back then. How things have changed since the seventies, the eighties and nineties, the two thousands up to 2022. August 8, 2022 to be exact. From 1961 to 2042 things changed. I’m here to tell how.

First of all I’m dead. Or, more exactly, we are all dead. Earth humans discovered that in 2031. It’s common knowledge now. As they say in 2042, never failing to remind us, it’s settled science! No argument here, the Earth used to be crowded, up to seven billions! Now, there is space, beautiful, peaceful, gorgeous elbow room. Lebensraum — living room, to do what you please, we finally got it.

As long as you like bugs. Because around 2031, when humans discovered the living were actually dead, the food we’d known for years, mostly natural food, was long gone. We ate the combined chemical and food elements/components of a series of species of bugs. Insects, we ate in some manufactured form, taste, and texture, all day, every day, three hundred sixty five days a year, for life. There were no more animals, large animals. Tame or wild. Like China we killed them all. Ate them. Only rodents remained. Not even birds. No more chirping. Two thousand forty two surely is a “silent spring.”

Babies don’t wail anymore either. Why give birth to death? To a dead baby? Discovering life only begins at death spelled the end of Earth, of humanity. Abortion skyrocketed. There is only death on Earth, studies determined, hammered the notion home. Again, the authorities told us it was settled science. Every scientist worth his or her salt knew the greatest agreement in science determines truth. Truth tells how to decipher reality, making it accessible, knowable. An epistemological concern.

Death is life. It was true. Odd we humans, all the greatest philosophers and thinkers couldn’t figure this out through the eras. Well, I guess the Stoics did, and Nihilists. Celebrate death and mourn birth, the Stoic creed, some always held a most true maxim. And now, in the 2040s, man, how true, how true. Birth is death and death life. Dig it, the greatest truth. The biggest, most encompassing paradigm change…since Earth, or human life on Earth, began.

Imagine, a human-less Earth. Free of pain. John Lennon did. The elites — they all who remain — convinced the people it was in their best interests. To believe. To die, to kill themselves, to let others live. In luxury. Suckers.

Previously published by Mad Swirl