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