Since my father died
I call my mother at least
twice a week. I ask
about her day, if her feet
still hurt. I wish
we had more to say. Jazz
plays softly on my stereo
as she tells me the new
burner was installed Thursday,
the garage door is falling
apart and the yard needs
weeding. Soon, she’ll realize
she’s talking to the wrong son.
I can balance her checkbook,
pitch batting practice
to the grandkids for hours.
But I can barely tell
the difference between a pair
of pliers and a wrench.
Anytime I had to work
around the house, Dad
would end up yelling
and send me to my room,
finish the job himself.
I’d slam the door, strap
headphones on and blast
The Young Rascals. Later,
he’d push open my door,
toss me my fielder’s mitt.
We’d race the six blocks
to the sand lots. He crouched
behind home plate, put down
one finger. I tugged my cap,
started my wind up and hit
his target with a high hard one
The Friday before Father’s
Day, I asked Mom
if she would be alright, if
she wanted me to come by.
She started to cry. I felt
helpless, tried to untangle
the extension cord. I knew
she would never tell me
what she misses most
about him, or when she feels
the loneliest. I kept
quiet, listened to the music.
Monk was playing a piece
I couldn’t name. The spaces
between the notes kept getting
bigger, and somehow I knew
Thelonius had made those places
so my mother could cry
and I could listen.
(originally published in Skidrow Penthouse)
Larger Than Life
I haven’t watched a minute
of this winter’s Olympics, carefully
avoided all the flag waving, all the medal
counting. I missed the sublime skaters
and merely glanced at the headline
announcing that a Georgian luge athlete
died on a first day practice run. But I remember
that long ago summer when the gymnasts
were all thirteen and built like muscular twigs,
their bright white teeth fixed in graceless
smiles, the anointed crowd favorite,
her Stalinesque coach and her father
dying of cancer back home in Kansas.
With background strings swelling
the announcer’s reverent voice
told us about her long endless hours
of dedicated day after day training
and how she spent the last four years,
really her entire life, for this one moment.
She raised her hands high above her head
and bounded, bounced, danced, jumped,
twirled, flipped, and oh shit, slipped,
skidded and crumbled into a heap.
The crowd hushed and I couldn’t keep
myself from hoping she’d pick herself
slowly up, bravely finish her program.
Or better yet, get up girl, c’mon, start
walking and keep walking, off the mats
and through the arena’s basement, step
into the world. Go home and fall in love
with the boy next door, wear a white dress,
build an ordinary, fuller life. Maybe, a life
like mine: Scan box scores on crowded subways,
walk down tree lined Brooklyn blocks, climb
the group home’s stoop, open the door to find
my second favorite kid looking like he caught
a left hook from Mike Tyson in his prime.
Then try to figure out what happened, take
steps to make sure no one hurts Lee again.
Leave work after lunch, ride the railroad out
to Long Island, visit my brother serving time
for a DUI. Sit in an over-crowded, noisy trailer
for two hours counting other white people,
the breathlessly sexy women, their restless kids.
Get screened in, watch my brother walk
across the cafeteria, shake hands, relieved
that he looks healthy, seems in good spirits.
Can I mail him anything else? Try ignoring
all the women bending and flashing breasts,
the slow soulful kisses, the three year olds’
bouncing happily, wrapping their arms
around their daddys’ necks, giggling.
End the evening at a jazz club listening
to a fat black man play piano, make Elvis
sound like prayer and old river hymns
grind like mortal sin while I sit across
from a beautiful new woman wearing
polka dots and braids, eating barbecue.
Marianne moves closer and squeezes
my arm, laughs. I imagine more music,
darkly lit bars, sweaty rock n roll.
I lean in and find her mouth, fast forward
to her hallway, watch her skirt swirl, lift
lightly as we climb five steep flights, press
against her as she pushes the door open.
(originally 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.