three poems – john dorsey


Where the Prom Queen Ends Up or Poem for Kristen

there is nobody waiting outside
the cowboy cafe & truck stop
to bring you flowers
or even offer you their coat
on a rainy afternoon
in lyman wyoming

most mornings you are
the first thing the sun sees
no matter when you punch in
& time stands still just long enough
for you to remember
how you ended up here

how this was just supposed to be a summer job
how calendars can bend the will of any ambition
how your thighs were once a temple of worship

stray dogs still sniff your ass
for that last scent of beauty
for that last slice of cherry pie
made holy by your touch

at least once a day
you are still
the most beautiful woman in the world
depending on who you ask

& if the wind kicks up just right
in any direction
you are still magic.


The Ballad of Pegleg & Double Stamp

as we drop him off at the greyhound
crazy mark says that the whole country is on fire

just outside the station
a legless vietnam vet asks a young girl
where she got her tattoos done

& i think maybe she’s a prostitute
or maybe she just looks like his daughter

or the high school sweetheart
he left on prom night
to wander into a jungle
of regret

that’s the thing about flames
you can move in any direction
& still end up
in places you never
intended to go.


Free as a Bird
for eric roetter

the image i have
in my heart
is you flying
through city streets
on your bicycle

before daylight
before heroin

the birdman of broad street

i’ll tell ya brother
you were already pure.


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 Press, 2017). He is the former Poet Laureate of Belle, MO and Co-Editor, with Jason Ryberg, of the Gasconade Review. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He may be reached at

Photo: Abigail Lynn