(Photo of John Dorroh)



What I Learned from my Seriously Uncultured Grandmother


She taught me to wash my hands every time

I captured a sunset, every time I rubbed a frog

on its belly, every time I played with dynamite

down at the old rock quarry. She showed me

how to swallow air and burp it up in my throat,

producing a most disgusting sound; how to coax

the chickens out of their comfortable roosts

in the middle of the night with miniature floodlights,

making them think that it was 5:00 a.m.


She taught me how to lie down in a ditch

when the wind got dangerous; how to build a fire

with two sticks, to attract owls for good luck,

to find water with divining rods, which looked like

wish bones on the other side of midnight.


I learned the difference between jelly and jam

and how to cough up silver dollars when the deputy

sheriff demanded that I do some sort of magic

before he considered sending me home rather than

into a cell with toothless old derelicts who discouraged

their women from having lives of their own.


She never lost faith in my gentle ways of dealing

with people, how I refused to rant and rave

at the cashier for short-changing my little sister

who parroted the phrase, “A dollar doesn’t go

as far as it used to, Mister.”


I learned that it’s a good thing to cry at funerals

and to buy myself some ice cream when I am sad.

She told me that it was okay to have some booze

when I grew up but that she would kick my ass

if she found out that I was smoking. “Except a

little bit of pot,” she said with a wink. “That just

might make your day a wee bit better.”



Week-end in New Paltz


Drew Barrymore leaned over at Bacchus bar

in New Paltz, New York, and asked me  if anyone

had every told me that I had a kind face. I melted.

Like butter in the sun, my chin oozed upon my own chest.

I asked the Domino’s guy why he hadn’t warned me

who she was. He bought me a rum and coke.

“Drink this,” he said. “She’s a landmark here. Put your

tongue back in your mouth.”


Walking to the 1777 stone house along the railroad tracks,

a Collie with three legs caught up with me and tried to smell

my butt. “No, fellow, I don’t do that on the first date. Now run

along with your three legs.” He stopped to lick his tail;

barked at something in the bushes.


For a long week-end I lived in the old pub

where disputes in 1777 were determined with fists and

ceramic mugs of warm beer, where dignity was eaten

cold like skinned-over pudding, where American Patriots

disagreed about whose horse was fastest and who could take a musket

punch in the belly. I felt their ghosts in the middle of the night,

telling me that I had a kind face.



Channeling Dr. Fraser Crane, Part I


What rough beast lurks there in the garden?

What enemy seeks to take you down this day?

Your lip is bleeding again, your expression a sad

reflection of your interior. You have to let it go,

like a dove in a paper bag. Eventually she pecks

the thin brown paper with tenacity and a longing

to break free, like you, my friend, like you indeed.


I trust that you have packed the proper essentials

for such a meeting, an interview, did you say?

I know that you will impress them, paint the city

a brighter shade of whatever hue is en vogue.

Should I pack a valise and accompany you?

Will you remember to consume some protein

each morning? When can we expect you back?


After facing your insecurities, fears, and doubts,

you are once again rewarded with accolades.

Kudos for a job well done. When do you start?

Do you have a company car? Health insurance?

These things are important, you understand.


I will have you picked up by my driver, Charles,

at 12 o’clock sharp. He will take you to the restaurant

and you will have your favorite table reserved,

the one with the view of the park with the pond

where those glorious swans perform on early afternoons.

We shall have such an exquisite time, shadowing

anything bleak that may have been growing

in your garden. Order anything you like. I may be

a few minutes late, but you always did fare

rather well on your own. Really, those Tahitian

spring rolls would suit your temperament to a T.


© John Dorroh


Bio:  Whether John Dorroh actually taught any high school science is debatable; however, he managed to show up every morning at 6:45 for a few decades with at least two lesson plans. His poetry has been published in Dime Show Review, Indigent Press, Piker Press, Red Fez, Eunoia Review, Tuck, Setu, Message in a Bottle, Poetry Breakfast, Walk Write-up, and others. He also likes to write short fiction and rants.