December 3, 2021

Tony Gloeggler

AFTERMATH

The siren speeds by my morning
window, makes me, half asleep, think
it’s racing to Jersey to rescue Ted
when I remember building maintenance
had already been called, found him
dead a week ago and he’s going to be
dead from now on. The last time I sat
with him in a diner was early March,
before Covid hit, after the usual Sunday
Parkside afternoon reading. One feature
was solid, the other sucked. Ted tried
a new one that cracked the audience up
and I liked how my new one sounded
coming out of my mouth. Ted’s talking
to the waitress. She’s maybe 25, Hispanic,
with a hint of attitude spicing her words.
He orders a turkey burger all the time,
asks if they got sweet potato fries even
though he knows they do to keep her
nearby. I’m deciding between eggs up
over corned beef hash or a turkey club
with fries, a black and white shake
to help it go down. Ted, a germ-a-phobe,
washes his hands. A bit of a slob, I don’t.

We agree about the reading. Francine
read two strong ones and it’s always
good to hear a new one from Puma
with or without music. We both wanted
to assassinate the political ranter, ignored
the guy who rhymed. We wanted someone
to gong the woman whose introduction
lasted twice as long as her harmless poem
and the kid scrolling the poem he finished
as the F pulled into Delancey Street needed
to reconsider the sanctity of the first draft.
“Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” filters through the sound
system and Ted calls the waitress over, asks
nicely if she could please change the channel,
that this song makes him sick to his stomach.
The waitress walks away shaking her head,
smiling, while he tells me how he can’t stand
fucking Stills, re-tells his story about the night
him and his friends threw snowballs at Buffalo
Springfield after a show and how the Buffalos
chased them down the street until they reached
their apartment building safely. Tough Bronx
boys my ass I laugh, tell him Steven was a better
songwriter than Neil back then. I stop talking,
sing along to the dododot ending while he hoped
his snowball missed Young, hit Stills. Baseball’s
next. Alonso or Judge, deGrom, Cole. Though
I know Jacob is the best pitcher on the planet
I pump up Cole because it’s more fun to argue
and it cracks me up to see Ted agitated, loud.
He gets up to hit the bathroom before his trip
to Jersey. I hold it in, prefer my home bowl.

We should have talked about suicide. Optimistic
me against Ted’s darkness. The idea of control,
dignity, the freeing from hopelessness and constant
suffering, peace at last, finally, versus everybody
dies, why help it out and hurry it along, the finality,
the no-going-back of it, just tough your way through
like we always do, holding onto the little things
that lift us momentarily and if you get to a point
you’re thinking about it, say something. I’ll Uber
to Jersey, beat you with a stick ball bat, knock
some sense into your cement-hard head, alright?

It’s March, 70 degrees, Covid’s loosening its grip.
Go for a brisk walk, lift your hands out of pockets.
Women and girls parade Avenues looking more
wonderful than ever after all this covering up,
isolation. It’s time to get out of Jersey, head to
Brighton Beach, that apartment you talked about.
Sit on the boardwalk. Smell the ocean, hang out
with Al Gal, down a few cold ones. Opening
Day is three weeks away, the Mets are certain
contenders, even the Knicks are watchable. Ted,
you dumb fuck, where are you? There are poems
only you could write, people who want to read them.
I just finished a new one. I want to email it to you.
I am waiting for you to tear it apart or love it a lot.

from Rattle #73, Fall 2021

__________

Tony Gloeggler: “My closest friend died a couple of months ago. I was shocked, but not surprised when I heard the news that Friday afternoon. He had been having a terrible time since Covid, but I figured he would tough his way through just like he fought his way through everything else in his life. We met through poetry, and we exchanged poems for at least a dozen years with unwavering support and stinging criticism—‘you’re joking with this shit, right?’ But it was everything else that drew us closer. I saw a lot of myself in him, and some things I wished I had more of, and I thought he felt that way about me. He was just a unique, no-bullshit kind of guy with a scary sense of humor and a tender heart he was willing to show as he went through life or put down on a page. He was really good at being himself. That’s what I’m going to miss most.”

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