John Dorsey

Making Weight

for steve burrik, 1976-2011

i’m guessing that

you never imagined

being middle aged

at seventeen

steve, in junior high

i wanted to be you

with your shiny doc martens

cheerleader girlfriends

and brand new skateboards

every other week

i didn’t realize then

that all glittered

truly wasn’t gold

that your father

would knock you around

if you didn’t make weight

for the state wrestling championship

or that drugs were more

of a parachute

wrapped around your neck

than they were an escape

after you joined the military

they called you a hero

but it was that scared kid

that i cried for

the night i heard

you’d passed away

when your time came

you went out

eaten up by death

in the end

you were always

just trying

to make weight.

Nikki, Full of Grace

for Steve Goldberg and Bob Phillips

the first time we ever met

you wore sunglasses

in the basement

of a south toledo punk club

where i was reading poetry

in the dark

backed up by a strung out piano player

under a photo of g.g. allin

bob went out to his car

& came back

with a half used jesus candle

from the dollar store

that lit up the room

with outline of your face

thin like a wafer

like the bones

of a half written patti smith song

about the madonna’s last days

spent counting the stars

over detroit

the fire in your eyes

burning the fingers of anyone

who dared to touch you.


had composed music

for the catholic church

moving in after his daughter

got hit by a train

one summer

just after midnight

he taught music, juggling

& card tricks to artists, clowns

& born again rounders

students of the quick & the dead

his smile was his greatest illusion

he’d pull it out simply as a test

                                                      of faith.

Published 10-14-17

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), Appalachian Frankenstein (GTK Press, 2015) and Being the Fire (Tangerine Press, 2016).  His work has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He may be reached at