Tony Gloeggler

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Artwork by Gene McCormick


Paying bills at the end
of the month, I think about
my mom sitting at the kitchen
counter, my father pacing
behind her as I sat cross-legged
in front of the black and white
waiting for Ed Sullivan to get
through the magicians and acrobats,
finally bring on The Rolling Stones,
The Rascals. He did all the math,
adding, subtracting, dividing
in his head. She did all the writing
in a neat flowing script that danced
across the check, her signature
a pirouette.  Round and round
they went as cigarette smoke
swirled to the ceiling, which ones
could wait, which ones had to be paid
yesterday. Mortgage, station wagon,
three kids in Catholic School
on a 40 hour a week warehouse job,
plus all the overtime he could get. 
Me, I live in a rent controlled
apartment, no wife, kids or car.
Not rich, I make more money
than I need, pay everything
as soon as it’s due. I could travel
anywhere, retire anytime
and sometimes I wonder
what they think of my life.
But my father’s dead, my mom
wouldn’t tell me the truth
and I try not to think too long
about what I might be missing.

First published in Main Street Rag

Ronald  McDonald House

My friend Dave said
it’s a great place to meet
women and I wanted
to start a writing group
for the kids with cancer,
their brothers and sisters.
But half the kids barely
speak English and the women
all sell advertising space
or work on Wall Street.
We sit around a table
as long as the Last Supper,
gesture, smile and repeat
polite phrases while making
collages. The women stay
in groups of two or three
like sixth grade and talk
about Upper East Side
rents, Mariah Carey,
and parties on Fire Island.
No one wonders out loud
about the missing kids,
if Nicky’s down the block
eating pizza with his twin
sister visiting from Greece,
whether Aaron went home
to die in Las Vegas, Nevada.
I keep my head down, busy
filling construction paper
with armies of stick figures
and stenciled letters that spell
out the names of dead guitar
players and old girl friends
until a kid calls my name,
wants to play ping pong.

Tonight, I’m playing ball
with Anthony. He’s five,
maybe six, can’t catch for shit
and since his hair fell out
looks like the leader
of the Smashing Pumpkins.
His round, beaming face
bobs up and down
to the bouncing ball
like a cartoon sing-along
and I find myself humming
silly summer songs. You want
to read that Anthony short
hops a grounder and flips it
underhand like Knoblauch
starting an inning ending
double play. You want me
to write he traps the ball
in his lap, waves it over
his head like he caught
a Mark McGwire home run.
But no really, he kind of claps
his hands together and the ball
pops up, bounces across
the table, knocking down a castle
of blocks, and this little girl,
this dark haired pretty little girl,
starts crying and nothing
me, the women volunteers
or even her mother try
helps at all. She keeps
crying louder and deeper,
and I swear I’d bang her head
on the floor, if I thought
it could make her stop.

First published in The Ledge


Tony Gloeggler is a lifelong resident of NYC who’s managed a group home for  developmentally disabled men for 40 years. His chapbook One On One won the 1998 Pearl Poetry Prize. His first full-length collection, One Wish Left, published by Pavement Saw Press went into a 2nd printing in 2007. Until The Last Light Leaves, published by NYQ Books, was a finalist for the Milt Kessler Book Award in 2016. NYQ Books released his new book What Kind of Man in 2020.