Tony Gloeggler

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Not Me

If I was Billy Collins
I would sit and try
to write a poem
nearly every day.
The opening lines
might sound like
neighbors meeting
on a street corner,
neighbors who may
or may not know
each other by name.
They’d nod, talk
traffic, snow, heat,
baseball, maybe stop
walking, try to say
something clever,
tongue in cheek funny
with an easy rhythm
and subtle rhymes
like a ride down
a long summer slide
splashing in a pool
on the hottest day
of the year and maybe
right before walking
away, one would lean
in, mention a dead
Greek poet or the twin
towers in a voice
just above a whisper
and your eyes may mist
for half an instant.
But today a woman
I’ve worked alongside
for fifteen years is lying
in a bed with liquid
in her lungs and cancer
in the liquid, a woman
nicer and kinder
than I could ever be
is lying down scared
and I’m not.

Originally published in New York Quarterly


My mother lays
a gun on the table.
I’ve never seen one
up close. The gray handle
is smudged with thumb
prints, but the metal
shines in bright kitchen
light. I reach for it.
Is it loaded?
She nods. I stroke
the barrel with two fingers,
slowly pull away and press
my glasses to my nose.

The neighborhood’s no good
anymore. I had to do
something. I shake
my head no, ask,
You know how to use it?

She licks her lips, picks
up the gun and cracks it
open. Six bullets spill
out, bounce and spin
on white formica.
She snaps it shut,
holds the handle
in her right hand,
rests her index finger
against the trigger, grips
tighter, lifts the pistol
in a double fist
and squeezes.

Originally published in 5 AM


Tony Gloeggler is a native of NYC and manages group homes for the developmentally disabled in Brooklyn. His books include two full length collections ONE WISH LEFT (Pavement Saw Press, 2000) which went into a second edition and THE LAST LIE (NYQ Books 2010). UNTIL THE LAST LIGHT LEAVES is forthcoming from NYQ Books.