John Dorsey

Painting Flowers with a Closed Fist or The Violent Femmes Are Not a Feminist Group
for becky hernandez

this is not a revolution
you were meant to remember
the words to

overhead the sun looks like a blister
in western pennsylvania in 1985

painting flowers with a closed fist
lacks imagination
& it is no way
to learn
how to dance.


Love Letters for Jana Horn

the mailbox is full of postcards
from hipster boys
& aging dreamers
who just want
to be swallowed whole
by a desert rose.


Poem for Shelby

too young to remember jonbenet
it doesn’t seem creepy to you
to ask for donations
for a baby beauty pageant

$10 here
$5 there
for a twirl
at the baton
of immortality

sometimes there
is nothing uglier


Electra Glide in Blue with David Smith

none of us are out
on that highway alone
love is the only true thing there is
words kicking up dust
in the search for myth
we were in this together
that’s what you never understood

for a moment
you held a dream
that felt real.


Young Man

i’m not saying
you were no good
just rotten on the inside
like a bag of sour apples
who left us too young.


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

2 Responses to “John Dorsey”

  1. priscampbell Says:

    Hi John,

    That first one is especially good. I knew there was a falling out between our mutual friend and David Smith but didn’t realize you felt that way too. You made good use of it in your poems, though,.

  2. Pris Campbell Says:

    I never have been able to go from here to the site to comment but love John Dorsey’s writing. I never knew what caused the falling out between John and S.A. and David Smith but if these poems are recent it must have been huge for the feelings to be this intense so long after his death.

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