John Dorsey

Degrees of Gray on Ashland Ave

for richard hugo and robert brundage

you might come here
looking for bones
bob brundage’s smile winking
a gift from the moonlight
passing through the trees
beneath the roots
he fought so hard for

scott high school on the radio
& chester’s fried chicken
sold on the same corner
where i once saw nick muska
search empty bus stops
for a $5 blowjob on his 64th birthday

he had to make it quick
before the candles blew out

on ashland ave

where i once
felt true joy
walking home
from manhattan’s
to a room
the size of a prison cell
that cost me 75 bucks a month
& all the sanity i could spare

where upward mobility
meant spaghetti instead of ramen
shared with a punk rock girl
on at least half a dozen
off-brand antipsychotics

where nobody has ever loved anyone
as much as they thought was possible
at sixteen

where the heart still aches

while we wait to ask the dead
for their forgiveness

before turning out the lights.


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 current Poet Laureate of Belle, MO. His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He may be reached at