“25 Years” by Tony Gloeggler

Tony Gloeggler


Sometime during Sunday’s phone call
my mom says tomorrow makes
25 years since Daddy died, right?
Her math, perfect this one time.
He was 64, like my grandfather,
she says. I remember his heart 
stopped working. My brother John 
swears it was the hospital’s fault,
a medication mix-up. I never knew
if I should believe him. I remember 
sitting by his bed hoping the nurse 
with the endless legs or the one
I sat next to in sixth grade, Ann Zanca,
was on shift so we could talk about kids
I hadn’t seen since I stopped playing 
softball and how fucked up they all
turned out to be. I think I thought 
my father was dying since I always
try to prepare for the worst, rehearse 
how to act. I kept trying to get him 
to eat or drink so he wouldn’t die
while I was there. I finished his food 
most nights. The roast turkey tasted 
best, but threw out anything trying to be
Italian. He hardly talked and I didn’t 
know what to say. One night, the nurse
hooked him up to a different machine 
and it was my job to make sure he kept
still. I pulled my chair closer, shut 
the TV off. When he heard Ann leave, 
he opened his eyes, tensed his arms 
and his eyeballs darted across 
their sockets as if he was telling me 
he wanted to run to the window, jump. 
I popped forward, grabbed his hand.
His lips made this half smile, saying
something like sorry, but he had to try.
I could tell you a lot of great things 
about my dad: working two jobs 
he hated, us kids opening every gift 
we ever wanted Christmas mornings, 
all those twilights getting in a crouch
playing catch with me, how he beat me
in the 100 until he turned 40, the way 
my friends thought he was the coolest 
neighborhood father, how he took care 
of my grandfather and great uncle Dom, 
took them in when their Brooklyn house 
burned down, always doing what he said 
he would, never letting me get away 
with anything, pressing me hard until 
standing up for myself became natural,
now and then pretending I was almost 
as tough as him. I could tell you as many 
bad things too. Just not right now, OK?

from Rattle #77, Fall 2022


Tony Gloeggler: “I started writing poetry because I was always pretty quiet and no one was really talking about things I was feeling and thinking. Trying to turn my thoughts into a poem helped me understand myself and how I fitted and didn’t fit in the world. That’s still what I’m doing whenever I write. I’ve written a lot of poems about people in my life and no one seems too happy about it. I’ve got a number of poems  about my father and nearly all of them have focused on our differences, conflicts. But I’m thinking he might like this one. My mom too. If they ever saw it.”

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