Tony Gloeggler

Link to home pageLink to current issueLink to back issuesLink to information about the magazineLink to submission guidelinesSend email to

Renal Sonogram

Tuesday morning and I’m lifting
my shirt, lying on my back
in a dark room. I have trouble
with the lab technician’s accent,
ask her to repeat every question
as she spreads gel on my belly,
presses a wand here and there
taking pictures of my kidneys.

“Please, deep breath.” Holding it,
I am hoping for easy answers,
a pill, less sodium in my diet
to stop my calves from swelling
as I sit at my desk writing,
standing and yelling for more
at Los Lobos’ Sunday night show.

“No breathing please.” I think
about this morning’s email, news
that my oldest friend’s nephew
is dead. Thirty-eight years old,
he went to grammar school
with my baby brother. The police
suspect foul play and Kevin’s
driving all the way from Cleveland
with his second wife. The wake
will either be a crying, moaning
mess or a half empty room filled
with awkward guilty silence
and I wish I didn’t have to go.

“Turn on side, please. Face wall.”
After this, I’ll ride the G train
to the residence, fire the guy
I was training to help cut
my work load in half. I feel
bad. He’s twenty-six, a funny,
ambitious kid who needs money
for his ‘baby mama drama.’
But his attention span’s shorter
than a Facebook message
and he kept borrowing cash
from the workers he supervised.

“Lie on back one time again.
Lower pants please.” I undo
my belt,  slide my pants down
so the top of my pubic hair
shows. “Hold breath please now.”
Younger, I’d have to concentrate,
try hard not to get an erection.
Now, I would be pleased to feel
my cock growing uncontrollably.

I watch the technician carefully
as she ignores me, does her job.
I imagine her hair let loose
from her bun, the lab coat falling
to the floor. But no, she’s not
the kind of woman I can picture
working in a Chinatown spa
leading me to the back room.

“Relax. All done, please.” I leave
knowing I will have to wait
patiently as possible until next
Tuesday, 12:45, for my doctor
to interpret the results, maybe
look me in the eye and deliver
news I’d never want to hear
or the chance of a happy ending.
First published in Newtown Literary


I throw my spikes and glove
in the back seat. We nod
hello, swap late night scores. 
The radio twangs country. 
I open the window, hang
my head out and hope
he drives fast enough to blow
that noise away. I don’t ask
about the money he owes me.
He doesn’t care why I left
my last girlfriend. No one
will bring up the dismissal
of his latest DWI or his poor
health, and he’s never read
anything I’ve written.

The sun hurts my eyes
as we fly by lines of cars. 
He’s five years younger
and since our Father died
I’m the one Mom will call
with the news of John’s next
car accident, his second heart
attack. I don’t know what
I’ll say to my Mother, how
I’ll explain I could never
help my brother. I wish
I was still twelve years old
and we were play fighting
before bedtime, laughing
and rolling on the floor,
and I knew I could pin him,
make him do anything.

We trot across the outfield
grass, warm up by the dug out. 
The ball whips back and forth,
smacks leather. I pitch, bat
third. He hits clean up, plays
first base.  I bounce a single
up the middle. He lines one
to right. I round second, dig
for third knowing I’m too old
for this shit. The coach yells,
“Down.  Down.” I go in head first,
just beat the tag slapping the back
of my neck. My brother eases
into second, clapping. I lie
on the ground, hugging the bag.

First published in Amicus

Hardly Talking

Last time I stopped
at the corner Bodega
for coffee, a corn muffin,
the fat woman who always
sits behind the counter
spoke to me in English
for the first time and told me
Emmanuel had died
last week. “You know,”
she said, “The old man.”
And I nodded. Larry’s friend,
the old guy who straddled
the milk crate, guarded
the outside fruit bins.
Anytime we walked by,
he’d stand and smile, slap
Larry’s hand five, take off
his cap. They would hold
each other’s shoulders, bow
just a bit and bump heads
gently, three times. Sometimes
he handed Larry a mango
or a zip-locked bag of berries
and I would act like my father,
remind him to say thank you.
When I said I was sorry, that
he seemed like a good man,
she told me to tell Larry.

Larry wears the same grey
sweat shirt every day.
He hides it every night,
fights to keep it out
of the wash, then sneaks
down the basement, listens
to it rinse, tumble dry.
He’s thirty seven years old
and can never fall asleep
until that shirt is folded
in his top drawer. I know
that every time we walk
past the store, Larry will
still interlock his forefingers,
keep repeating “my friend,
my friend” with that slurred
slightly raised last syllable
hanging in the air. I’ll try
to hurry him, take his hand,
bribe him with a popsicle,
a black and white cookie,
until I’ll give up and lie,
promise, that yes, his friend
will be back tomorrow.

The last time I saw
my father, we hardly
talked. I straightened
out his sheets, ate half
of his hospital hamburger
and hoped he would hurry
and fall asleep. I kept
leaning out the door,
checking the clock above
the water fountain, looking
down the hall for my sister
who finally came and took
my place. I left, caught
an early movie and sat
in a nearly empty theater,
watching a movie I can never
remember the name of,
wishing I was Steve Buscemi
making out with his friend’s
seventeen year old daughter,
Chloe Sevigny, the night
my father died.

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.