Tony Gloeggler

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June 11th

It’s Sunday, a family barbecue
ending with my niece holding
her Rapunzel doll and leaning
over, helping me blow out
the candles on the Carvel cake
celebrating my birthday.
I ask for the biggest piece,
eat around the crunchy
middle part that gets bigger
every year and save the vanilla
ice cream for last. My mom
brings up my father, the year
he didn’t give me a gift
when I wouldn’t cut
my hair and he found out
she slipped me fifty dollars
for Beach Boys tickets,
how he didn’t speak
to either one of us
until the month ended.
I remember she treated
him nicer while I pretended
not to care. Now, nearly
the same age as my father
when he died, I appreciate
how much he’s missed.
He never met Helen
or my step son, never
had the chance to wonder
what went wrong or blame
me when they moved back
to Vermont. He missed
my brother’s marriage,
his suburban success.
He never got to see
my brother’s daughter
or her baby brother
who’s sitting in a high chair
across from me. Daniel
keeps dropping his spoon
and he doesn’t stop
crying until he gets it back.
I can almost see my father
picking it up, taking it
to the sink and saying
“enough of this crap,”
or maybe, softer now,
he’ll make a loud, silly
sound and fit the spoon
into his grandson’s
pudgy excited fingers.

Published in Two Bridges Review


Early Saturday night
and your phone rings. 
Maybe it’s Nancy, asking
can she catch a cab,
come over? Can we try
again? No, it’s Doug. 
He worked on two new poems
this morning and he thinks
they’re almost there. Mid day
he subwayed to the Bronx,
shot a round of golf. He said
he was happy: the sun,
the grass, the little white ball
rolling into holes. He felt good
going home to read Gatsby,
glad he wasn’t the guy sitting
across the train, looking
at his watch, straining
to catch his reflection
in the window. That guy
can’t be late. He’s meeting
the woman he loves
at seven thirty sharp
and he wants the part
in his hair to be perfect.
You’re not sure Doug’s
lying anymore. He sounds
convinced he’s better off
alone. Most nights, you’re
lonely too, trying hard
to believe the same thing. 

Today you ate a late lunch
at a diner: bowls of cole
slaw, pickles, lean pastrami. 
Outside, the day was setting
records for warmth in February.
Everybody was walking in twos,
holding hands and stepping
into stores like they were boarding
some ark. Your waitress wiped
a countertop. She looked nearly
as old and tired as you felt
and when the crowd thinned out, 
she sat down. You both hated
the song playing on the radio.
She kept tipping the salt shaker,
moving her hands as she talked
about her six-year-old son. 
She said she went to St. Ann’s
with your sister, her brother Danny
played little league with you. 
You apologized for not remembering,
told her about the group home
you run in Brooklyn, that you want
to be a baseball player, a rock star
or a writer when you grow up.
When you asked if she’d mind
if you came by at the end
of her shift, she took one
of your cold french fries,
put it in her mouth, said ten,
ten thirty would be good.

Published in Nerve Cowboy


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.