John Dorsey

Cancer Song #10

my stomach is a battlefield of nerves
i clench my guts in the sun
i sit in a bathroom so dark
on cold mornings
that even god couldn’t find me there
my grandfather loved chocolate covered cherries
until they took his legs
after that they smelled like napalm
my grandmother’s favorite shampoo
smelled like a honeysuckle rose dying on the vine
i think about what they’ll take from me
& everything we leave behind
& just hope the poems
are the last thing
they bury in the dirt.


Cancer Song #11

every time you check in
at the cancer center
they comment about how good
your blood pressure is
even as your body crumbles around you
even as rome burns inside your chest
they say not too shabby
as if putting a positive spin on things
will make you forget where you are
they ask you what you do
they say they can help you
push a dead horse
over an invisible finish line
give you another revolution
around the sun
pancho villa made revolutions with his own hands
instead of those of other men
chiming in with silly banter
mixing blood & clay
on silent mornings like this.


Cancer Song #12
for scott wannberg

i think about how scott died in his bed
about how that’s what we all want
instead of watching our skin
come apart like peeling wallpaper
like some nightmare in a kate chopin story
where we all get to lose our mind
& pray on it
in some quiet corner of a faded society
surrounded by machines built to breathe for us
in hymns reserved for the quick & dead.

© John Dorsey

John Dorsey is the former poet laureate of Belle, Missouri and the author of Pocatello Wildflower. He may be reached at

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