John Dorsey

men of steel

a few years before he died
my grandfather had one of his legs
chopped off he referred
to diabetes as that slow death with a killer smile

i’m told he hadn’t been able
to fuck for at least a decade
if only viagra had made
its way into the suburbs back then
he might have given wilt chamberlain
a run for his money

i remember how we’d sit in his attic
watching old reel to reel
stag loops of carmen miranda

he never believed in comic books
or fairy tale endings
he said “back then
we were all men of steel”
talking about his days
in the boiler rooms of braddock, pa
and how he been a high school basketball star
forced to drop out and trade in his sneakers
for steel toed work boots to support his family

my grandmother a raven haired
carhop beauty jailbait in any era
i remember how she ran around
with the owner of the local pool hall when i was a kid
i guess at that point she just needed the dick
he told me to call him “uncle bill”
and let me play the skee-ball machine
until i fell asleep
in the corner of the room

around the same time
my uncles got drunk
and taunted the tornado
that threatened to wipe out
my parent’s mobile home in the spring of 83′
i remember thinking
what does god have against trailer parks?

my grandmother and i haven’t spoken in yrs
her living with a 80 yr
retired grifter named walter
who could take jim thompson
for his last borrowed nickel
& me thinking about my grandfather
laughing and teaching my cousins
how to play hopscotch on one leg
hell, he could even dream on one leg

he always said it was more than enough to get the job done


John Dorsey is the author of several collections of poetry including “Sodomy is a City in New Jersey” American Mettle Books, 2010. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He may be reached at