Having a Great Day in South Carolina

(as of this writing, Gov. Haley of South Carolina has declined to have the state’s poet laureate read a new poem at her upcoming inauguration; thinking perhaps it wasn’t appropriate in tone I endeavored to come up with a suitable replacement ode, which I’ve included below.)

Hello, we’re having a great day in South Carolina;
Unemployment claims are down, gas is cheap,
job growth is up and business is booming.

Schools are crumbling
Roads are crumbling

Charleston is a top tourist town;
Myrtle Beach another top draw.
Do you think we could claim Augusta National?

Homelessness continues to be a problem
For our politicians and also our homeless.

Boeing and BMW, Google and Amazon.
Home Depot, Blue Cross & Blue Shield.
This many corporations can’t be wrong.

Good ol’ boys getting caught in legal dilemmas
James Metts, Danny Frazier, and Bobby Harrell.

We love our Gamecocks, and the Tigers too.
Welcome back Marcus, so long Mike,
Thank God for women’s basketball.

Goodbye, because not enough of us
are having a great day in South Carolina.

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I Believe (In Rock ‘n’ Roll)

I believe I’ll have another, and another, and one more

Until I lay here staring at you from a sticky floor

of a bar I shouldn’t frequent at my age without my wife

it’s the story of my evening, the story of my life.

What’s the worst thing that could happen off carousing on my own

I’m halfway sort of famous, what if my cover’s blown?

Will I have to sit and listen to another tell their tale

of how they’d surely make it when all they’ve ever done is fail?

I’m just in it for the music and that’s how it’s always been

When the band is tight and the tunes are right there’s a momentary zen

a spiritual thing that’s not religious or dogmatic

but an emotional knife that cuts right through the static

Of a daily life that’s not that special just like anyone’s

only with feedback, and distortion pedals, and drums

Rock ‘n’ roll is here to stay sang the Juniors at the hop

Don’t know about forever but here’s hoping it won’t stop

For me, or for you, or anyone who has a stake

in music, in life, in whatever difference it can make.

Friday Night, Lights Out

Friday night, lights out at home

because everyone’s at the football game

where the lights are brighter than a thousand living rooms

Like a pagan ritual the crowds chant in unison

for gladiators in the arena

placing their hopes and desires on shoulders of untrustworthy, fickle giants

subject to the whims of fate,

the angles of trajectory,

the variations in the weather.

The real action’s not on the field anyway,

it’s in the stands, the bleachers, the lines at the restrooms.

dress up, dress down, either way you’re getting judged by your peers

and found lacking, or deemed desirable.

The same groups that sit together at lunch are bunched up

under the stands, hanging out by the concession stand

or broken up and forced to stay with their parents,

who cheer louder than the students for a school they left twenty years ago.

It’s a community, not just for a few hours surrounding a football game

but the days and weeks surrounding the season

when you run into the coach at the gas station and smile

but only if it has been a winning season.


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Story Song

Watching a televised version of the film “Memorial Day” tonight, I was struck by the stories that one can tell and how those retellings affect those who hear them. Not ‘about’ the movie but ‘inspired by’ is the following new poem:


Story Song


This is my story, my song

It cannot be yours but you can listen

I will tell it in my own way, slowly, reverently.

My grandchildren will drag it out of me

Curious but not realizing what they’ll get are

Not tall tales if they’re true, told honestly,

Recounting a lifetime.


This is my song, my story

A beautiful melody to me and my own

Might sound to you a cacophany, a jumble of sound.

Discord comes before sweet and satisfying resolution

Conflicted lines meeting in harmony once more.

Words make sense if you know them

As the refrain to a lifetime.

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It’s a Pinball Life

It’s a Pinball Life


Pinball is proof that gravity works.

The inexorable inevitability of inertia

in the form of a child’s game.

That small metal ball rolling down the slightly sloped table

past holes, targets, lights, ramps, and bumpers;

an obstacle course that only delays the outcome

but never stops it completely.


Bells and whistles abound to distract the player

and let them know they have scored a bonus, or extra ball.

Concentration on the ball is paramount over all other concerns

if one is to get the most credits out of their quarters.

With flippers the only thing standing between a high score and oblivion

the pressure is on to perform at the highest level

especially if you’re in an arcade and there is an audience.


Anyone can play, few can master the game

like Tommy the pinball wizard it takes dedication and something more–

that special talent for seeing the whole picture while knowing

where the ball is at all times.

Multi-ball bonus time is a juggler’s paradise, silver orbs caroming

off one another as the score increases exponentially.

Keeping as many in play as possible drives the total but exhausts the player


Until the last ball drops; game over.


– Kevin Oliver

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Haiku Tuesday, Spring Edition

Inspired today by the lazy feeling of this cool, clear morning and the now fully emerged blossoms on the batch of yucca plants in our front yard (six of them sprouted flowering shoots this year!) comes this week’s Haiku Tuesday entry:


Blooms emerge to greet,

on a cool, crisp spring morning

while we lay sleeping.

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Last Stop

Last Stop

Garage sale finds on a cool Saturday in May.


Candlesticks with half-melted candles still in them, a toaster that “Works”.

Scratched up copy of a Men at Work album, Christmas coasters.

A slightly used circular saw, a pile of size 29 men’s pants.

Coffee mugs with a logo from a company nobody works for any more.


Detritus of a life, cast off and discarded but making One last attempt to be useful and wanted.

A seldom used exercise machine “As Seen on TV”,

Placemats, a frying pan, VHS copies of “The Natural” and “Rudy.”

Floppy discs in a copy paper box with handwritten labels.

A wedding dress, $100 firm. Paperback books, 25 cents.


This is their last stop before the thrift shop.


– Kevin Oliver

Music In the Air

Listening late tonight to the music of Danny Schmidt and Carrie Elkin, a soon-to-be married pair of incredible singer-songwriters who just released a duo album together, and thinking about what that relationship must be like,  I was inspired to write a music-related poem about that harmonic love between two people who are just comfortable with each other. I’ll send this one out to my own wife of over 20 years, who knows me well enough to complete song lyrics I start singing randomly.


Music In the Air


There’s music in the air whenever you’re there

A tune that’s familiar and strong

We make melodies and write lines that pair

In harmony we get along


I find the notes in my heart when I sing

About life, about love, about faith in my Lord

Inspiration that comes from most any thing

For you are the bridge that I scored.


The coda is near but the tune not completed

a song that we’ve written throughout our whole lives

In a voice sweet and clear, and not yet defeated

the music is all that survives.


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Haiku Tuesday

After thinking I would ‘create’ a new hashtag for #HaikuTuesday, I realized it already existed (and I probably knew that and forgot). Since the daily grind of National Poetry Writing Month is done, a new regular feature here would be welcome–so here, then, is my first, spring-inspired installment of #HaikuTuesday:


Blooms stagger open

like drunks after a bender,

waking to the sun.


This Memorial

A recent photo expedition through a local cemetery yielded the picture below, which tonight brought out a new poem… For the history about what’s below South Carolina’s Lake Murray, go here.


This Memorial


Beneath the waters and the waves made by boats

full of people oblivious to your origins and secrets.

Saturday afternoon pontoons on the lake over the same ground

Saturday afternoon drives were taken along before

the river lost its freedom to continue on its way.


Progress in the name of power is a powerfully progressive thing.

It can cover up entire towns, churches, family homes and farms,

All for the greater kilowatt hour of good.

Now there are ferry roads with no crossings that dead end at the shore

of a feature on the map that wasn’t there the first time it was surveyed.


Scuba divers float over underwater bridges that no longer serve their intended purpose.

Recreational space hundreds of feet deep, and wide.

What of those who left before the waters rose?

Where would they be now if not

for an engineering marvel?


This memorial erected to the memory of those whose names are inscribed here-on,

and whose bodies now rest beneath the waters of Lake Murray.


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