John Dorsey: “Paul & the Trailer Park Tornado”

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Sign for the old Dreamland mobile-home park in Phoenix, Arizona.
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Paul & the Trailer Park Tornado

the door of our trailer flapping
my heart wide open
my mother says
not to stand
by the window
where my fingers
touched everything
for the first time

while a plastic pinwheel
in the shape of a rooster
takes flight
over our roof.

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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 Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). 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 archerevans@yahoo.com.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Sign for the old Dreamland mobile-home park in Phoenix, Arizona.” (2008) The Library of Congress

John Dorsey: “One Cool Customer”

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One Cool Customer

he comes in with dirt on his hands
asking about old doc savage novels
that nobody ever has

for a minute we can forget politics
or who had a baby
with whose husband
three generations back
before running barefoot
into the moonlight
with a sweaty paperback
in each hand.

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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 Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). 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 archerevans@yahoo.com.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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Image Credit: Chase Dimock “Lights Outside Ehrenberg, AZ”  (2021)

John Dorsey: “Walt Disney and Richard Branson Will Meet Again at Freedom Mausoleum”

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Walt Disney and Richard Branson Will Meet Again at Freedom Mausoleum

past lives are all we have here
the grass kept green for golf tees
& billionaires in a space race with mortality

smoke coming from burning buildings of the dead
& the stained glass ears of a technicolor mouse
who makes us all feel safe.

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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 Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). 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 archerevans@yahoo.com.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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Image Credit: John Margolies “Mouse hole, Mauro’s mini golf, Hazel Park, Michigan” (1986) The Library of Congress

John Dorsey: “A Chicken Strip in the Shape of A Seahorse”

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A Chicken Strip in the Shape of A Seahorse

sold by a high school girl
in a hairnet
who can’t swim

is proof
that god
once danced
underwater.

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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 Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). 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 archerevans@yahoo.com.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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Image Credit: Digitally enhanced image from Arcana, or, The museum of natural history : London, Printed by George Smeeton for James Stratford,1811. Public Domain. Image Courtesy of the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

John Dorsey: “Poem for Danny Bell”

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Poem for Danny Bell

you had a face like a weasel
& a heart like a lion
in your late 40’s
your parents gone
you had never lived alone
carrying your faded baby picture
around the factory floor

in the morning
watching for deer
from the bus window

the sun dancing
along every wrinkle
you never noticed

the passing of time

your thin black hair
slicked back
with a cheap plastic comb

eat your lunch
apple first
tuna sandwich
with the crust cut off

wait to go home.

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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 Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). 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 archerevans@yahoo.com.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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Image Credit: Dorothea Lange “Baby from Mississippi parked in truck at FSA (Farm Security Administration) camp, Merrill, Oregon” (1939) The Library of Congress

John Dorsey: “Scott Wannberg Prays for Rain”

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Scott Wannberg Prays for Rain

because he has to be doing
something up there
besides playing shuffleboard
& singing duets with john prine

he says harry crews
sucked all of the air
out of the room
reading one of his poems
croaking like a frog
who had gainesville
by the throat

saying something about how
he ate all the good flies
in a dancehall

that was never
meant
to last.

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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 Poetry, 2017),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019), and Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020). 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 archerevans@yahoo.com.

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More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

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Image Credit: Carol M. Highsmith “Rainbow and complex clouds form after many inches of rain over several days near Stockton, California ” (2012) The Library of Congress

Poetry Soundbite: A Reading and Interview with John Dorsey

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Welcome to AIOTB Magazine’s second Poetry Soundbite, an on-going series of poetry readings and interviews. For this edition, we welcome John Dorsey, who will read from his book Sick, a collaborative collection of poems with Daniel Crocker. Dorsey’s poems explore growing up with cerebral palsy and the challenges he faced in an era before our present day accommodations for young people with disabilities.

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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),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019),Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020) and The Prettiest Girl at the Dance (Blue Horse Press, 2020. 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 archerevans@yahoo.com.

John Dorsey: “The Prettiest Girl at Dirty Frank’s Bar”

 

 

The Prettiest Girl at Dirty Frank’s Bar

helped take the stools down every morning
& wore an eyepatch to keep out sunlight
& bad decisions

she hung art on the walls
just below a faded banner
for budweiser

& she talked about the moon landing
while dancing in a circle
with her arms out
to properly explain
the laws of gravity.

 

 

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),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019),Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020) and The Prettiest Girl at the Dance (Blue Horse Press, 2020. 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 archerevans@yahoo.com.

 

More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

 

Image Credit: John Margolies “Beer sign, Seaside Heights, New Jersey” (1984) The Library of Congress

Shawn Pavey reviews “The Prettiest Girl at the Dance” by John Dorsey

 

 

John Dorsey Tells Us of Pretty Girls

By Shawn Pavey

 

 

Book Review: The Prettiest Girl at the Dance by John Dorsey

Blue Horse Press, ISBN-10 : 0578818787, ISBN-13 : 978-0578818788

 

Reviewing John Dorsey’s work is never an easy task. The greatest challenge comes in finding new things to say about his consistently exceptional poems that, over the last decade or so, come with more frequency and ferocity. Dorsey is a prolific poet. His previous collection to this one, Which Way to the River? by OAC Books weighed in at just under 500 pages and only collected four years of work. Yet Dorsey still manages to create, in each poem, a fresh revelation about being human in a world moving so fast that people spin off to collect in convenience store parking lots, truck stop diners, and low rent tenements. These are John Dorsey’s people.

 

The subject of each of the poems in this collection are women he’s met – waitresses, lovers, passing acquaintances, and dear friends. I know this because I know John. I’ve witnessed the events in at least one of these poems, met some of the characters from others. To be considered a friend of John’s is an honor and one I don’t take lightly. But as a reviewer, I must set that friendship aside to speak honestly about this book. That, in this case, is the easy part.

 

The Prettiest Girl at the Dance is some of Dorsey’s best work to date. Victor Clevenger’s insightful foreword to this book makes the same assertion. It is a bold thing for either of us to say, but Dorsey’s legion of readers will most likely agree.

 

Let’s look at The Prettiest Girl in Austin, Texas:

 

claims to have the best ass
in the city

a perfect apple shape
for roaming hipster bars

this town used to be so cool

now she has to drink malt liquor
out of an empty bag
in an empty field

just to stay ahead
of the curve

 

As I wrote in the foreword to Dorsey’s 2019 collection, Your Daughter’s Country (also from Blue Horse Press) if one finds one’s self the subject of a John Dorsey poem, he loves you. But it doesn’t mean one is free from a little good-natured teasing. The subject of the poem above laments how “cool” only lasts long enough to be recognized. Once “cool” is overrun by “common,” we are, quite literally, sent to new pastures to find the thing we lost once everybody else found out about it.

 

Readers new to Dorsey’s work and longtime fans will delight in how much weight each of these poems carry in so few lines. There are only two poems in this collection that run longer than a page and none longer than a page and a half. Dorsey makes his verbs do the heavy lifting. His modifiers are sparse and absolutely necessary to paint his images. His use of imagery is damned near alchemical as he creates tiny little worlds where the reader and the subject interact. In The Prettiest Girl in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Dorsey writes:

 

had red hair & kind eyes
& wore a backless sundress
in the middle of february

she had a mind as big
as the milky way

& freckles all over her body
that kept me from writing
anything

 

It is in the small details where we see Dorsey paint vast canvases with a fine-tipped brush: sundresses, freckles, red hair – these are the words that create the thumbnail sketch that he fleshes out throughout this brief poem. Freckles become the Milky Way, all of the details combine to create a person that affects the poet so deeply that he cannot do the thing that defines him.

 

Another distinctive characteristic in these poems is that many contain a structural hinge, much like a traditional sonnet. While Dorsey rarely writes structured verse, he’s studied it plenty. Take  The Prettiest Girl in Fisherman’s Wharf, for example:

 

places her hand on my shoulder     
to keep my absent-minded legs
from stepping in front
of an oncoming streetcar

her fingers long and cool
like the summer breeze
remind me that I don’t die yet
want to die alone
or take the form
of a dying bird

i want to love her
just long enough
for a beer to get warm

just long enough
to mean it

 

In a mere 15 lines, Dorsey takes us from mindlessly walking down the street to recognizing an act of kindness to contemplating his own mortality to falling in love “just long enough / to mean it.” The hinge happens in the line space before the next to last stanza. The three lines prior take us out of the moment and into the poet’s contemplative spinning out to his eventual end and back again. But he changes direction in those last five lines. What can the poet offer in thanks? Love, adoration, if only for the briefest time.

 

One could argue that in the title of this book and in the title of each poem, using the diminutive “girls” does a disservice to the subjects of these poems. That is a valid point, on the surface. After reading these poems, however, it becomes evident that Dorsey’s use of the term “girl” is intentional to portray a sense of the innocence of beauty, kindness, and feminine vulnerability and strength.

 

Dorsey’s view of these characters is also unflinching. In The Prettiest Girl in Kansas City, Missouri, Dorsey concludes:

 

working as a museum security guard
where she stole loose bills
from the donation box

to buy enough whiskey
to put in the baby’s bottle
to help her make it
through the night.

 

This is an unflattering observation of somebody struggling to make it through the world the best she can with the tools available. Not all of Dorsey’s pretty girls are life-saving angels, their beauty might be hard for many of us to see. But John Dorsey sees beauty in everyone and that beauty permeates every single one of his poems.

 

The Prettiest Girl at the Dance is Dorsey at his best – telling entire stories with a handful of lines that are at once both intimate and universal. It is a quick read, but by no means light.

 

Shawn Pavey, February 12th, 2021

 

About the Author: Shawn Pavey is the author of Talking to Shadows (Main Street Rag Press, 2008), Nobody Steals the Towels From a Motel 6 (Spartan Press, 2015), and Survival Tips for the Pending Apocalypse (2019, Spartan Press) which was 1st runner up for the 2020 Thorpe Menn Literary Excellence Award.  He co-founded The Main Street Rag Literary Journal and served as an Associate Editor. His infrequently updated blog is at www.shawnpavey.com.

John Dorsey: “The Prettiest Girl in Byron, Missouri”

 

 

The Prettiest Girl in Byron, Missouri

hasn’t seen the sun in months
she sits cross legged in the rain
waiting for her turn to dance

scratching out the image
of a paper heart
in the mud

it’s the only way
she can remember
what her grandmother’s face
even looked like now

water rolls down her tin roof
in search of deliverance

overgrown weeds hiss in the wind
wrapping around her toes
like jump rope

squealing in an empty field.

 

 

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),Your Daughter’s Country (Blue Horse Press, 2019),Which Way to the River: Selected Poems 2016-2020 (OAC Books, 2020) and The Prettiest Girl at the Dance (Blue Horse Press, 2020. 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 archerevans@yahoo.com.

 

More By John Dorsey:

Anthony Bourdain Crosses the River of the Dead

Punk Rock at 45

Perpetual Motion

 

Image Credit: Frances Benjamin Johnston “Port Tobacco Houses, Port Tobacco, Charles County, Maryland” (1936-1937) The Library of Congress.