John Dorsey: “Picker”




that’s what they called him
a finger buried deep in his nose
as a way to cope 
with a flabby stomach
& a face covered with so much acne
that it was about as baby soft
as the surface of mars

that was before everyone had anxiety
when ptsd was reserved for people with real problems
when kids threw lit matches at anyone
they couldn’t just burn at the stake 
when we ate pop rocks & pepsi
because we wanted to spontaneously combust
as if daring god to give it his best shot

his sister sat in the back of the bus
hiding from her own bloodline
denying his existence 
to sit next to cheerleaders
who would shoot spitballs  
into her greasy black hair
when she wasn’t looking

she would just laugh
as if she was in on the joke
saving her tears for after supper
when she could write it all down
in a secondhand trapper keeper
with a wrinkled picture 
of mary lou retton 
taped to the front

they used to jump rope
in their front yard
with these same kids  

their mother used to tell them 
they could be whatever they wanted

but she never had to carry 
their books in the snow
heavy with the weight of hours

when silence greeted them
in crowded halls

& blood seemed thicker
than almost anything.


About the Author: 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) and Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019). 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


More By John Dorsey

Creatures of Our Better Nature

The Mark Twain Speech

Punk Rock at 45

Poem for Curtis Hayes


Image Credit: Attic Red-Figure Janiform Kantharos Fragment. Attributed to Onesimos, painter (Greek (Attic), active 500 – 480 B.C.) Attributed to Euphronios, potter (Greek (Attic), active 520 – 480 B.C.) Digital image courtesy of the Getty’s Open Content Program.

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