Tony Gloeggler

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In the Building

The group home is getting dressed
for Halloween and Harry’s picked
the shiny white Elvis jump suit.
It’s way too tight. Two counselors
struggle to pull the top over
his shoulders, finally fit his arms
into sleeves. His stomach sticks
out like he’s ten months pregnant
and the workers try not to laugh.
Harry wants to know whether
he can eat five slices of pizza
at the party as he struts
toward the mirror, announces
that he looks like a fucking
dickhead. I nod, tell him
he sure does, ask if he prefers
the Humpty Dumpty costume.
He pauses, curls his top lip
like the King, strums an imaginary
guitar and sings I Can’t Help
Falling In Love as the workers
slow dance across the floor.

First published in Quercus


When we walk out the door,
Jesse’s respite worker asks him
about the weather. It’s February
in Maine and there’s snow
on the ground. He answers
“Clouds, wind, too cold.”
Still, I have to remind him
to zip his hoodie, ask maybe
we should go back inside,
change his sandals for socks
and boots. He blurts, “No
socks, no shoes” as I dig
my hands deeper into pockets,
trot to the car. His worker
turns down the radio,
shows him his cell phone.
A list of different cities
roll down the screen,
their current temperatures
next to them. The worker
points to one and Jesse
answers what he’d wear
if he were there, a coat,
or shorts and a tee shirt.
When the worker points
to another, Jesse pauses,
then says, “New York, Tony
house” and I wonder whether
he remembers that eight hour
U Haul drive when he moved
to Brooklyn the summer me
and his mom were in love.

Jesse, five and a half years old,
incessantly sweating and still
marching obsessively room
to room closing every window
tight; sitting on my lap, licking
the burnt orange remnants
of Extra Spicy Doritos off
his fingers as I talk on
the phone; subwaying
to the end of the F line
and jumping Coney Island
waves as it grows too dark
to see, playing Rosalita,
We’re Having A Party,
A Good Feelin’ To Know
on the stereo, blasting them
in the same exact order
anytime his mom called
to say sorry she’d be home
late again from work
as I lift him as high
as the ceiling, bounce
him on the bed over
and over until we both
run out of breath, ready
for a Beach Boys lullaby
to close our eyes, hopefully
help him, me, sleep
through the night, please.

First published in Trajectory

Black and White

I sometimes took the F train
home from work with Lois
and could feel her cringe
anytime a smelly black beggar
stepped in front of us, held
out his hand and god blessed us
even when we never gave them
a penny, She’d shake her head
and her black face would grimace
anytime a gaggle of teenagers
took over our car, the girls
clacking gum, swinging their fat
ghetto earrings and the boys
swaggering around in those baggy,
low riding jeans and showing off
their funky ass underwear, saying
fuck this and nigger that. She’d lean
over, grab my forearm and whisper
how she’d like to take a switch
to everyone of their mothers
while wishing she had the guts
to tell them to stop acting
the fool and disgracing her.

Mondays, we’d talk about weekends.
Hers was a visiting nurse job,
a long hot bath, candles, wine,
some long time lover she’d toss
out before she left for church.
Mine was a movie or concert,
an old girlfriend back in town,
dinner with a new woman, hardly
better than being alone writing.
Sundays, I’d sometimes visit
my mom and someone, my brother,
my sister or my cousin the cop
would slip in the word nigger
somewhere between the pasta and meat
about some spoiled selfish athlete,
our ruined old Brooklyn neighborhood
or welfare and Sharpton and fatherless
children and I’d keep eating, never
saying a word except to please pass
the lasagna, knowing I couldn’t
change anybody’s mind and trying
to believe that nothing they said
had anything to do with me,

From The Last Lie

Life and Death Matters

Halfway between home
and work, halfway throughArtwork by Gene McCormick
the newspaper, I’m reading
an interview with a poet
who’s saying, that for him,
word choice is a matter
of life and death.  His name’s
not Victor Jara.  And he’s not
some death row prisoner
whose name I can’t pronounce
scratching out his last breaths
on napkins and toilet tissue.
He’s a professor, a guest
lecturer, with a secretary,
two or three grad students
who type his poems, answer
his letters and lick his stamps.

Yesterday, Rita closed the door
to my office, said she needed
extra hours.  Her boyfriend Patrick,
the mother fucking bastard
she’s been living with
the last six and a half years
raped her daughter
while she was out of town
visiting her sister in Virginia.
I asked about Keisha, did she need
the name of a doctor, a counselor.
She said no, just overtime.
She knows this guy who
will do anything to anyone
for two hundred dollars.
She spread the work calendar
across my desk.  “Tony.  Please.”

First published in The Ledge.


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.