Tony Gloeggler

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Brooklyn Bound

She braces her body Artwork by Gene McCormick
between closing subway
doors, asks if this F train
goes to Coney Island.
She rushes in, pulling
the hand of a little girl
who in fifteen years
will be even prettier
than her mother. I go
back to my book, glance
at them each time
I turn the page. If
I catch the woman’s eye,
I’ll lift my head
at the end of every
paragraph. If she smiles,
it’s after every sentence.
If she starts a conversation,
I’ll smack the book shut,
throw it out the window.

But only the girl
knows I’m alive.
She looks at me
then quickly turns away.
She whips her head
around, looks back
with her mouth wide
open. Then she does it
again. This time, she
sticks her tongue out,
wags it side to side.
Finally, I get it.
Peek-A-Boo. I close,
open my eyes, act
surprised, press my nose
into a pig’s snout, pull
back my hair and flap
my ears like a fat bird
taking flight. She slides
down her seat, kicking
her feet and giggling.
The woman grabs her daughter’s
arm, leans over, threatens
her with a finger held
close to her face. The girl
bites her lip, sits up
and folds her hands
like an honor student
in Catholic School.

I want to apologize,
explain it was all my fault;
but I am afraid of her too.
So I read my book
as if it is getting good.
Minutes later, the train
rises out of the ground.
Sunday morning sun
lightens up the car, brightens
the neighborhoods we rattle past.
The girl climbs on her knees,
looks out the window,
points and tells her mother
about backyard swimming pools,
a nun clanging a church bell,
a man and woman slow dancing
on a fire escape. But her mind
is somewhere else—maybe
she’s telling her husband
she doesn’t love him anymore,
maybe she’s in the shower, touching
the tiny lump on her breast—
and she stares straight ahead.

The girl keeps pointing,
slapping the window and bobbing
her head up and down, nudging
her mother’s shoulder, yelling
Mommy Mommy Mommy
when she just gives up
kicks her mother
with both feet. Mommy
grabs her by the legs,
swings her across her lap
and whacks her ass
—You little bitch—
five, ten, fifteen times
until the girl’s bare thighs
are stained with red
burning hands and I want
to dart across the car,
somehow make her stop.
I could rub her back
as she cuddles her daughter
and they cry together.
I could sit, listen
to the woman’s apologies,
say I understand. I could
tell her about the group home,
the night I hit the retarded kid
when he bit my wrist.
How I wrote in the log
that Jimmy Hock fell
stepping out of the tub,
banged his forehead.
How the left side of his face
puffed up and turned colors
like he lost a schoolyard fight.
How I couldn’t sleep
even after everyone seemed
to believe me and I kept
my job. How Jimmy
still runs to hug me
when I punch my card
nine o’clock sharp
Monday through Friday.

But all I do is hide
my eyes in the book,
hope that it’s over soon,
that the next stop
is mine. The woman smoothes
her skirt fl at. The girl
cries quietly, covers
her face with her hands,
her skin still pink.
When the conductor announces
Kings Highway, I get up,
wait by the door. I can feel
the girl’s eyes, two snipers,
peeking between her fingers,
shooting holes in the back
of my head.


Tony Gloeggler is a life-long resident of New York City and have managed group homes for the mentally challenged for over 35 years. His work has appeared in Rattle, Chiron Review, New Ohio Review, Mudfish, Spillway and Main Street Rag. His full length books include One Wish Left (Pavement Saw Press 2002) and Until The Last Light Leaves (NYQ Books 2015). His next book What Kind Of Man (NYQ Book 2018).