John Dorsey

John Dorsey lived for several years in Toledo, Ohio. He is the author of several collections of poetry, including Teaching the Dead to Sing: The Outlaw’s Prayer (Rose of Sharon Press, 2006), Sodomy is a City in New Jersey (American Mettle Books, 2010), Tombstone Factory, (Epic Rites Press, 2013), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016) and Shoot the Messenger (Red Flag Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020), and Afterlife Karaoke (Crisis Chronicles, 2021). His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and the Stanley Hanks Memorial Poetry Prize. He was the winner of the 2019 Terri Award given out at the Poetry Rendezvous. He may be reached at

Trailer Park Song, 1984

john cougar mellencamp sings 
a song 
about peace 
in the elementary school cafeteria 
as his niece beams with pride

my father fixes a local newscaster’s car 
in the snow for $5 an hour 
to feed a family of four
his knuckle busted open
face covered in blood & grease
like war paint 
in a losing battle

in our house
it’s difficult 
to have any fight left in you 
when the spaghetti is low

but peace is not 
the same thing
as peace of mind.

Poem for a Noseless Man

for victor clevenger

an old man with half his nose
eaten away by cancer 
says we are all ravenous locusts 
at the same overcrowded trough
as he explains his theories on women
the front half of his yellow sports car 
torn off to match his nose 
after swerving to miss a hay baler
he pumps gas and laughs
thinking about when he left home 
after a fight with his father
& how he has been 
on the road 
ever since

he points to the car
it could have been worse
he could’ve ended up 
like james dean

but he’s not pretty enough for heaven 
or the silver screen
& not ugly enough 
to hide his face
& let some lonesome dirt road
forget he was ever here.

Bob Creeley was an Asshole

for jake marx

that ungrateful chicken farmer
pecking away at your driving
as you wheeled him around the kent state campus
as tear gas and history
flew through glass windows
& he barked out orders
to go this way or that 
the same year irving layton 
sang leonard cohen 
with the voice of a canary
with love & quiet dignity.

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