:: Article

Four Poems

By John Dorsey.

poem for a toothless lion

for gregory corso

you were a sonnet
in a dark alley
a toothless lion a slow
disease painting a still life of death

when time brought you sunflowers
you piled brick on top of brick
inside your heart
i camped out there
looking for words
with a flashlight and
an open heart
remembering what you always said

dream like you have a gun to your head

i knew a woman
who was pregnant for 32yrs
packed 40hrs into the
first 24 but still
i’ve never really lived
just watched as the
last embers of rome
flowed through your pen
in little italy

it’s just after 5am somewhere
and if i cut
box in half that
doesn’t make things magical

the walls in this
room grin back at
me with apathy

you told me once
about how they used
to build whole city states
out of poems

how everything you see here
is made out of
the bones of dreams

how having a stiff
drink with lorca meant
you had to write
everything down right away

lately the words just
won’t come

the words
to say i love you
like death

a few wks ago
i crossed an arroyo
finding only red earth
and stones i looked for angels bones
inside the skeleton of
a melted typewriter

why is it that
i feel like the
ghost in this relationship?

there’s a light in
the corner of the room

i want to reach
for a pen
sing to the dead
in an eternal language of love
to shoot my way out
of dreams

it is after 5am somewhere
and i need this poem
to reach you and
find you well


the way things were in 1981

for adam walsh

in 1981 i had
a pete’s dragon sleeping bag
that resembled the alamo
back then i threw
kisses at the wind
as a form of
prayer sometimes i wish
could go back there
with a flashlight 5yrs old
i’d take a bus
to hollywood florida
adam walsh and i
would go rollerskating through the
aisles of heaven and i would
ask him “what do
you want to be
when you grow up?”
whatever he chose i’d
be proud of him
and i would remind
him not to talk
to strangers i would
say that i was
from the future and
that when i looked into
his eyes all i
could see was a
ghost clutching a rosary

back then i remember
thinking that the local
newscaster was the president
he always looked so
serious that was the
year my mother took
me to the movies for the
first time and my
dad bought me a
comic book in niagra falls
on a family vacation
i didn’t tell them
that you were the reason
that i feared going
into department stores and that
i once saw an
angel on the side
of a wal-mart ringing
a salvation army bell
that looked a lot
like you and that i
was always afraid that
they’d steal the stars
out of the sky
with a butterfly net
because i always
wanted to name one
after you it always
felt like we were
brothers only you were
an invisible celebrity and
i was a nameless boy
i bet your mother
still cries some nights
howling in the wind
where i left those
boyhood kisses i hope
they comfort you now

1n 1981 i believed
seeing was believing
but now the most
powerful things in the
world seem to be invisible
and now as i
listen by my window
garbage trucks rumble like
the shadows of invisible gods
their music offering blessings
to both the quick and the dead


when becky was in hollywood

becky walked in wearing
giant heart shaped sunglasses
it was the summer
of 1999 i was
on leave from the
university and was teaching
mentally challenged people how
to wire fluorescent lighting
panels and place labels
on dented soup cans

all summer she kept
talking about her days
as a tv star i didn’t
believe a word of it
really just wanted her
to shut the fuck up

one day one of
the “clients” threw a metal rod
at my head because
i wouldn’t let him
have a juicebox
before lunch later i found out
that first he had
killed his bird then
his dog and then his parents
and had been sent to
us only after a
nearby mental hospital got shut down

as i walked into
the break room hands shaking
i noticed becky’s image
beaming across
the flickering black and white
tv screen there she
was ten years younger
on an episode of “full house”
as michelle’s retarded friend

tomorrow if she asked
me if she could
have juice before lunch
i would say “sure
what the hell
have some animal crackers
too” after all she deserved
the star treatment


the birds and the queens

at the tender age
of fourteen my mother
took me into her
bedroom to ask me
if i thought i
might be gay
in a flush
of emotion my face
turned beet red
and as hot as lava rock
i started to stammer
and broke out in hives

as i tried to
get up and leave
she blocked the door
and started to tell
me about the birds and queens
as if i had a
tony curtis t-shirt on
under my pajamas

as if i’d built the
stonewall inn brick by brick
with my own hands

i thought for a
second she might hand me
a copy of swank magazine
and usher me toward the
bathroom and tell me
to “do what came
naturally” which would
have been an
even stickier situation

John Dorsey currently resides in Toledo, OH USA. He is the author of several collections of poetry of poetry including the forthcoming Sodomy is a City in New Jersey from American Mettle Books, an imprint of Grievous Jones Press, due February, 2010. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He can be reached at archerevans@yahoo.com

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, December 4th, 2009.