Matador Review

A Quarterly Missive of Alternative Concern

Robert Michael Oliver

My Son, the Terrorist


I bolted awake,
a lightning strike in reverse,
eyes iris-wide.

My son's a terrorist
I realized—6 years old,
ready to wreck the world.

I buzzed Homeland Security,
their "report a terrorist" hotline,
manned 24 hours a day;

but I love my son,
and they have a reputation for sniping:
single bullet-hole above the right orbital;

even after he broke the vase,
despite my warnings not to run
like Batman through the kitchen,

to the living room where
my wife's mother’s heirloom rested,
chest high to his flying;

or when he climbed the birch,
shook the heavens, despite a neighbor's
swearing he'd snap that branch

angling over her Subaru;
landing feet first and laughing, he'd no idea
he'd cratered her dream-wheels;

or when he Magic Markered
his uncle's wall with loafered caterpillars
and anglerfish he'd seen on video

in grotesque copulation:
his aunt declared: "The Rights of Man
do not apply to boys!"

I tried being kind:
if he sat still for breakfast, I offered
lollipops for lunch;

super-sized his dinner-sticks
if he said "please", gifted him
an I-Phone just because

commercials told me to
(he broke it on the slide down to mommy—
bastard that he be!)

So I went firm, a CEO
downsizing; pink slipped his playtime
when he failed to re-crate his toys,

cut grooves in the hardwood,     
dared him cross; he crossed daring me spank;
but I love my son.

Instead, I hired a specialist
in anti-terror behavior; she tested him
using doll therapy: a Barbie

dressed the rage; a GI Joe
with breasts like Hulk's; he knocked
Barbie down; then cried

when Joe popped his head.  
I even gave a priest a try, a reverend,
a whirling dervish, a warlock

with a clutch of witches—
Stupid God: he screamed throwing
marmalade at Jesus.

Stupid Satan! Stupid Man!
Then John the Baptist got re-decapitated.
He broke my favorite coffee cup.

Will he set the house aflame?
I squat among the ashes, ohming prophecy
and popping pills:

one for delirium,
another like a barbell
hoisted to the moon:

a terrorist is a special gift;
a daddy, a lonesome thing; a lightning strike
defines the world.

Have Gun
(A Poem for the 21st Century)


I need to get me a gun, one of those big
black Dirty Harry mothers that lie down
in your palm like a dinosaur, purr like one too.

I'll flop in my house late at night, lights
black, door wide, wife's silver service splayed
like a stripper on the dining room table.

I'm snarked for that burglar, long whiskers
sleuthing on puss and boots through dark.
I feel my heart rattle like a Magnum in heat.

Scoop up those jewels you nine-lives asshole.
I stick my hot barrel in your Jello face
and splat my inheritance on your pearly gates.


Or I'll grab me a sawed-off shotgun
(even the name makes me harder than Adam
with his Eve, and I'm just as happy to see her).

I'll pace on my front porch, give grins
to the neighbors: you know the ones,
a cross between Boy George and Hillary.

They're smug in their Jockeys, a what's-up-
trailer-face plastered to their mugs, carrying
on in the backseat of their Hyundai Sonatas.

I greet them with a fist bump and my best
moonshine munch, before flinging them
sawed-off like confetti on New Year's.


Or I'll bust out a semi-automatic
Bushmaster, a blast your face to Columbine
holy-hating 30 round mag.

That's what this boy needs. Not
eggnog at Christmas, a hog on Vet's Day,
or a beer any given Sunday.

I smell a storm a stewing just west
of Hollytown. With a swag and a swiggle,
I march to Mall City, throw ice in a Cong's

face, stomp a Tex-Mex guerilla and
his Ayatollah side-kick, then spray the green
foliage with red white and blue blood.


Or maybe I should snarf me a rifle
with a scope, to split a man’s noodle,
as crow flies to where that dog hunts.

My God, it's the 4th of July
with a sniper special; Batman's
on vacation and I'm camped on a balcony

this side of Ford’s Theater; like JFK
he'll never see what came: one Universe
to another, one Savior to another,

one America to another. Applaud me you
helium-toking, Torch Song Trilogy loving cowpile!
I've stricken your world and obliterated mine.


Now I stand in my boxers,
give birth to the end-times.
I know I'm remarkable:

a snub-nose under my chin,
a splinter plunged in my heart,
a fuse as long as Dallas.

If you light me, I'll explode;
if I light me, I’ll implode and scatter
my karma all over Wyoming.

I light me.

Robert Michael Oliver is a poet, playwright, theatre artist, and educator living in Washington, DC. Co-Director of the Performing Knowledge Project, Michael performs two solo poetry-in-performance pieces: Embodying Poe and "Song of Myself": the WHITMAN Project. Although he has written poetry for over 4 decades, he has only recently sought publication. He has published his work in several online journals. To find out more about Michael go to