Tony Gloeggler

Link to home pageLink to current issueLink to back issuesLink to information about the magazineLink to submission guidelinesSend email to

Fade Away

In 1964, my father and uncleArtwork by Gene McCormick
loaded the U HAUL and we left
Bed Stuy with all the other white
people and moved to Long Island.
I was 8, ashamed to admit
I cried the last day of school.
We lived on the top floor
of a six story walk up. Mom
wrapped dimes in napkins, dropped
parachutes out the window
whenever The Good Humor Man
rang down our block. Joe Poggi,
the older kid on the fifth floor,
kicked the shit out of anyone
who teased me the year I needed
crutches to walk. August, we opened
Johnny pumps, played kick the can
and dragged mattresses up the stairs
to sleep on the roof. Two flights down,
I crouched on the fire escape, saw
my first real live, half naked girl,
Denise Acquilante, sitting in front
of a brightly lit mirror, brushing
her sixteen year old nipples,
turning this way and that way.

Five years later, when construction
shut down a section of the BQE,
Dad took side streets and drove us
home through our old neighborhood.
The sun and radio filtered through
the elevated tracks as we followed
Myrtle Avenue, turned left toward
Stockholm Street. My father slowed
down, clicked the radio off and told us
to shut the windows, make sure
the doors were all locked as we rode
past the boarded up barber shop.
The luncheonette and Gino’s Pizzeria
were gutted shells. Our building,
79 Stockholm Street, was a lot
covered with rusted metal, piles
of tires and powdered rubble.

My father eased the car
to the curb, “I told you Mary,
we got out just in time.
God damn animals.”  I pressed
my face to the window.
On one corner, a bent,
netless rim was nailed
to a telephone pole, and one
black boy about my age
bounced a basketball.
He stopped, cradled the ball
on his hip, looked at our car
for a few seconds, cocked
his head, then started dribbling
again. He backed in closer
to the basket like Earl
The Pearl, peeking over
his left shoulder, twirling
in slow motion and taking
that soft, beautiful fade away.

First Published in One Trick Pony   


The Way a World Can Change

Start with a letter from a woman
who disappeared, brokeArtwork by Gene McCormick
your heart eight years ago.
Her life’s a stolen car,
an escape from a cult,
a sperm bank son, six
years old, autistic.
She’s not sure why
she’s writing. Don’t laugh,
it says, she’s moving
to Vermont, trying to find
herself and she remembers
the time spent with you
as happy, stable.

Read it again. Write back,
edit it like a new poem.
You’re working the same
job, there are still no
pictures on your walls,
your first full length collection
will be published in January.
You like the name Jesse, ask
if he has her clear blue eyes.
Hope that when she finds herself
it will be the woman you loved.
Write. Call. Anytime.

Answer the phone. It’s her,
Helen. Talk until Jesse
screams too loud and wrestles
the phone from her hands.
Fly Jet Blue. Kiss
in the garage like kids
at recess. Eat at a diner.
Hold hands, touch knees
under the table. Make love,
fuck on her futon until
it’s time to pick Jesse up
from school. Try not
to feel so warm, so lucky.

Eleven months later, Brooklyn.
Helen, Jesse, you, living
in an apartment you can barely
afford. He’s sick, she’s left
for her new job and you’re half
asleep. The phone rings.
Helen’s scared. She says
to turn the TV on. You watch
the buildings burn and fall,
wish you could hold her
as you feel Jesse’s head
for fever. She’ll be home
soon as she can. Be careful.
She loves you. Quietly
lie down next to Jesse.

Two nights later, go outside.
The sidewalks are empty,
hushed. Something is still
burning. You hold Helen’s
hand, watch Jesse graze
his fingers against fences.
Flags drape every third
porch. A cat rattles
a trash can, a dog growls
and your neck tenses
with each sound. You pull
Helen closer. Jesse darts
into Ocean Parkway. A car
swerves, skids to a stop.
The driver drops his head
to the steering wheel,
covers it with his arms,
relieved. She crouches,
cries into his shoulder.
You sit on the curb,
hug your knees.
End here, please.

Originally Published in Massachusetts Review


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.