The Poetry of Maurice Oliver

The Trouble With Purple

Tangled in kudzu untamable
or maybe sometime later
on a back road out of town
a free soul dances in movements
like a bomb about to explode
under stars blurring every fate
or brushed against a cobalt sky
or along rows of hedges that border
ditches pointing to a consort moon
it turns its back on a purple past
hinged on the word painful then
tongued by a pink never precious
or more likely wondering what if
further along to the gist of it
or on occasion tasting wild desires
like wanting to be free to watch
a chain of lightning that occurs
now and then as electric sparks
that detonate a backdrop of hills
rare to this part of a desolate
& otherwise treeless county


Or Lanterns Gibbet-Hung

Arm tattoos under a ballpark’s florescent
glow. Love lacquered in a cold drizzle. A
series of blue stains never annulled. Words
written then italicized. Crushed ice. Singing
floorboards. Beetles on a rain-rusted screen.
The high kingdom of an oak tree. To speak in
tongues. A swag of mistletoe. A forthnight
of escapades. Plums in the grass. Winter
withered in fields. Fingerprints around the
light switch. The sheer distance of the moon.
A hail of scattered rice. Chicken wire for
a cage. Two shared oceans between mouths.
Eating honey with one finger. Rowing at night
on a still lake. Glass display cases of flint
arrowheads. A window view across the lawn.
The first step of a secret passageway. Lost
in palpable silence. And nor is freedom.


Body Grammar, Barking

A house strung up with Christmas lights.

White tongues of incense smoke. Blue veins
at your ankles. Saplings planted on a hillside.
Feather pillows. A box of Milkbones in the
pantry. A muscle showing off. “I barely paid
attention”, she says, buttoning up her blouse.
Mini-skirt. Napes of hair. O for pagan angels…

a newspaper on the stoop
a leather-bound stamp collection

Later, in front of the class reading my
essay on the way boy dogs talk French…

hoop earrings
eye-lid studs
We hire a guide to see the waterfall.
A lot of fishing goes on from the bridge.

Twice a week I visit my shrink.
At night, bats return to the belfry.

See Spot run. Here boy.
(now watch the tail wag)


Psyche Paradise (The Original Version)

In California only the
furniture behaves-

& by nightfall anything not bolted
down turns into puppy puke or
flocks of gulls raiding topless
garage cans on the boardwalk where
it takes the authorities two weeks
to figure out where the food is
disappearing to or how crime can
spread its wings & drift like a
cloud floating by or when there’s
static on the radio I watch prime
time TV to admire the glint from a
star who toys with the actual noose
knife baseball bat bomb lead pipe
pistol that went pop while she
shelled beans the burglars asked for
virgins because troops must eat all
of which is described in detail until
I’ve had enough & grab the remote to
pull the plug because I’ve seen with
my own two eyes that occasionally
there are no birds.


Horse Or Fish In The Carlight

At the time it seemed like a good
place to start, so I thought about
green a lot, like leaves. But the
ones that kept coming to mind lay
in the gutter dry & brittle, from
a life already spent or on a hill
full of crosses. So I tried thinking
of blue, but that only reminded me
of veins visible beneath the skin &
the nails used for the hands & feet
nor big staples. So I tried thinking
of the many shades of gray in a sky.
But all the hues turned out to be
just criminals anyway, or political
prisoners seeking asylum but not
finding one welcome mat. So now I
only think of black lizard boots
in the carlight, as life’s grubby
pickpockets brush my thigh.

After spending almost a decade working as a freelance photographer in Europe, Maurice Oliver returned to America in 1990. Then in 1995, he made a lifelong dream reality by traveling around the world for eight months, recording his experiences in a journal instead of taking pictures. And so began his desire to be a poet. His poetry has appeared in The Potomac Journal, Circle Magazine, Bullfight Review, The MAG, Tryst3 Journal, Pebble Lake Review, Eye-Shot, The Surface, Wicked Alice, Word Riot, Taj Mahal Review (India), Stride Magazine (UK), Dandelion Magazine (Canada), Retort Magazine (Australia), and online at,,,,, (UK), (India), and (Germany). He currently lives in Portland, Oregon USA where he is a private tutor. His poetry blogsite can be visited at: