Late Summer Sky
After the transplant, the first
thing that enters my mind
when I wake up is no longer
what hurts most, what
will I be capable of doing
today. Before I step out
of bed, I whisper thanks
to my brother Jaime, stroke
my side where I believe
his kidney now resides.
My piss shoots out like new,
a strong steady stream.
Standing there, still sleepy,
I begin thinking how to fill
the five hours I’d spend
at dialysis watching Law
& Order re-runs, fitting head
phones on and pressing shuffle
three days a week as I waited
for leg cramps to attack me,
my blood pressure to drop
like that Toots and The Maytals’
song. No need for afternoon naps.
I can now walk to the neighborhood
theater, sit and eat buttered popcorn
mixed with frozen Reese’s pieces
while my eyes never leave
the screen through Hell Or High
Water. I go back to work, back
to a job I love that pays me more
than enough. And no, I won’t
have to sell my Stub-hubbed
Brian Wilson tickets.
Tonight, I ride the subway, meet
Angelo for dinner in The Village.
We talk about the Yankees,
the silly, self important world
of poetry, that chump Donald
Trump. He tells me about his move
from down near the World
Trade Center up to Harlem,
the upstairs white lesbians
who help him with his laundry,
all the great Dominican food.
I ask about his long held
vegetarianism, he puts
a finger to his lips, blows
a quiet sshh and I smile.
I recite my updated health
report as I watch the door,
women escaping from a late
afternoon downpour, all wet
and wonderful. We give orders
to our waiter, pour water
from the bottle left on our table.
I tell him about all this time
I now have, wonder when
I’ll start to feel lonely again.
I think about how long it’s been
since I’ve been with a woman
wanting more than company,
conversation. Will I remember
the things I’m expected to say,
what to do if it ever gets
that far? Will it feel
like the first time, new, scary,
luscious? Will it feel anything
like love as I stare out the window,
watch the sky begin to darken?
Originally published in Mudfish
Walking in the neighborhood
Larry twirls like a circus bear
every twenty steps or so, bends
down and pulls up his socks
like Thurman Munson adjusting
his batting gloves before each pitch.
Lee walks down the aisle, sliding
his fingers along the packages
on every shelf, stopping to align
each one perfectly before he keeps
walking. Some kid stares and laughs,
another runs to his mother, eyes
wide with confusion. The mother
smiles at me, her face softens
into an apology and then crumbles,
turns into an Oh you poor thing
pitying pose. I look past her, move
closer to Lee, touch his arm, instead
of smacking the nice lady across
her mouth. I hold Robert’s hand
as we walk through the park’s gate.
He moves like a drunk Pinocchio,
nearly misses the bench as he stops
to sit. Jesse walks down the aisle,
plops down in a window bus seat
smiling widely as cars drive by,
humming his tuneless song, breaking
into loud laughter and I’m five years old
again. Climbing onto the B55 bus
with my leg brace clanking, I drag
my huge booted foot through the crowd
as the people lean against poles,
grab hand grips. An old black woman
gets up, offers her seat to me.
My mom tells me to thank her,
but I whisper, no thanks, grab hold
of a pole and hang on, dream
about flying away, disappearing.
At home, I sit on the stoop, watch
some kids play stickball in the street.
A foul ball bounces my way. I catch it,
rub the Pennsie Pinkie as one
of the players runs it down. “C’mon,
give it back, you retarded gimp.”
I extend my hand. When he gets near,
I tackle him, wrestle him to the ground.
Surprised, he tries to fight back,
struggle out of my hold. I kick him
with my brace. Red pours out of his head.
It felt good. It still feels good.
Originally published in Alongside We Travel
Contemporary Poets on Autism
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.