“All of Them” by Tony Gloeggler

Tony Gloeggler


Down Syndrome Larry, my favorite
guy in the residence, the perfect
blend of Pillsbury Dough Boy
and Charlie Chaplin, all gap toothed
grins, warm cuddles and charm
bowing to kiss my aunt’s hand
when she gave him a silver dollar
the Christmas I brought him home,
pirouetting anytime a pretty girl
walked by on Smith Street. Making
faces, silly sounds for store owners,
the free zeppoles, black and white
cookies, Italian ices rolled in. Robert,
nicknamed Notre Dame after
the hunchback, bouncing along
like a string puppet and smiling
constantly, saying hello to everyone,
thank you, whenever someone
did anything, answering yes
to every question posed his way,
always got extra help, the most
attention from new workers. Others,
like Jimmy, never had a chance.
Hulking, plodding and drooling
like a fountain that never granted
anyone’s wishes, grabbing your arm,
only letting go after a tug of war,
his spit drying on you, stinking
the rest of the day. Still, Ethel,
Jose, Riviezzio loved him best
while I shook my head, baffled.
Be careful with James, the silent
type going about his business, big
and powerful, quietly creating
collages or scrolling on his iPad,
sweeping the floor, doing laundry,
emptying the garbage. Easy to forget
the times he exploded, overturning
his desk, the refrigerator, hurling
utensils at the ceiling lights, cracking
his teeth chewing on the area rug
in a rage. Still, he was the top
draft choice whenever anyone
wanted Dunkin’ Donuts, a soda
from the corner bodega, or took
a ride to fill up the van, pick up
prescriptions, the perfect guy
to sit shotgun, tap along to whoever’s
favorite station, carrying packages
and opening doors. Then there’s John.
Visitors, acquaintances love him.
He remembers everyone’s name,
smiles all the time, makes cocktail
conversation like he’s running
for office, never admits he had
a bad day, takes five minutes
to ask a question, twice as long
to make a decision. Sometimes,
I get so bored with him I need
to scream. I’m tempted to tell him
to shut the fuck up, never come
to my office except in an emergency
until I remember the time I stood
at the top of the staircase, heard him
grumble his way down about all
the fucking bullshit he puts up with
every damn day, that fucking Tony
breaking his balls. All of them. Like
me and you, like everyone we know.

from Rattle #83, Spring 2024


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 fit and didn’t fit in the world. That’s still what I’m doing whenever I write. This one’s about the guys in the group home I managed (the place I fit best, where things made the most sense) and how so few people outside the residence viewed them like they viewed anyone else, how they’re mostly just like everybody else. A little nicer or nuttier, funnier, weirder, less guarded. How a couple of them are two of my favorite people ever, how they could sometimes annoy the crap out of me. And how I miss them (apologies to Lee and Florencio for not letting them in the poem but luckily they don’t read poetry just like nearly everybody else) and the staff. Especially Larry.” (web)

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