August 13, 2018

Tony Gloeggler

SOME LONG AGO SUMMER

I once slept with a woman who worked
a few months at the group home I run,
but only after I fired her for a no call
no show weekend that left the shifts
severely undermanned. Next day,
we ran into each other on the subway,
rode through Manhattan together,
hugged goodbye. Four days later,
Denise waited for me outside work, went
all the way home with me. After fucking
the night away, we went to the diner
for breakfast. Grits for her, home fries
for me. We ended up at the schoolyard.
She took me down low, bumped me
with her lovely ass, while I tried
to ignore my hard on. I kept the score
close, but always won. She was younger,
I was older. I had money, she had none.
I was lighter, she was darker. She was
beautiful, I was not. We never could agree
on a radio station. We both liked Al Green,
but never the same songs. She loved
the back-to-back black shows on NBC
Thursday nights, I preferred Law
& Order. She never read my poetry.
I felt her rap rhymes silly and forced.
She liked things rough and hard, I liked
to watch my cum slide slowly down
her dark inner thighs. I didn’t know
if she was hoping to get her job back,
looking for some kind of love or a few
weekends of outside-the-neighborhood
fun. I wasn’t doing any thinking at all.
Just last week, she was standing in line
at the corner bodega. Coffee for her,
Snapple for me. She still looked good.
Me, worse than before. Once, she said,
she saw me walking by in some long ago
summer as she sat in a shady park rocking
her baby for an afternoon nap. She said
I never looked her way, but she knows
if I did I would have stopped, leaned
down for a soft quick kiss and told her
that her daughter was as beautiful
as she is. I smiled, knew she was right.

from Rattle #60, Summer 2018
Tribute to Athlete Poets

__________

Tony Gloeggler: “Is a ballplayer an athlete? My identity as a kid was being the best baseball player in the neighborhood. It was the one place I connected with my dad playing catch after dinner, him in a crouch and me with a Juan Marichael wind-up or hands on my knees at third base and him trying to hit one through me. The local hoods gave me a free pass because they played in the same leagues as me, and they knew I was better than them and respected it. I still hate running and exercising and when I went for my high school try out, the blue-eyed blonde senior captain laughed at me when I couldn’t figure out a four count jumping jack and my arms started shaking at my fifth push-up, but in my first intra-squad game, I threw one behind his head, stared him down, then struck out the side on nine pitches and was the only freshman to make the team. Also real good in schoolyard basketball and football, and I played all kinds of softball until I was 50. I think my poetry is affected by it in the sense that I work at it with the same kind of focus, and that time I no hit the rich kids school in the eighth grade CYO Cham-pionship game still means more to me than the time I got a poem in the New York Times. And even though I don’t do shit now, I’ll always feel more like a ball player than a poet or artist.” (web)

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July 28, 2015

Tony Gloeggler

PILGRIMAGE

Think of the time you flew
into Albuquerque, the drive
from the airport, flat thirsty
red-brown land spreading
in all directions, a snow-capped 
mountain sitting on the horizon,
the adobe village, an old Navajo 
driving a creaky bus uphill, 
reciting rehearsed facts, wounded 
jokes meant for white folks
as the sun blistered down on ancient
dwellings haunted by ghosts 
of dry-boned medicine men,
young women who fled to the city,
bread frying over a high flame.

The faded purple Acamo t-shirt
is now tucked in your bottom 
drawer. You were taking a breath, 
running from your most recent 
heart wreck, trying to learn 
what it would mean to leave 
behind a boy, Jesse, you treated
as your only son, some future
you dreamed of building. After
learning how deep a night could grow
without New York City lights,
you woke early and drove hours
to stand in line with shuffling, hunched-
over old women who twisted,
entwined strings of black beads
in their fingers as Japanese tourists
dangled cameras from their necks.

You sat in a back pew, watched 
the women light candles, kneel, 
then fervently trace the sign
of the cross while you remembered
the legend of a bursting hillside 
light and a local priest finding
the miraculous crucifix
of Our Lord of Esquipulos
in the famished ground, 
carrying it to Santa Cruz, 
only to have it disappear 
three times and return 
unexplainably to the place 
it was first discovered. 

You ducked into the sacristy,
the sacred sand pit, its walls
lined and cluttered with discarded 
braces and crutches, hand-
made shrines attesting 
to its many miracles. 
As women with tears shining
on grateful faces prayed, 
you grabbed a fistful of dust, 
placed it in a see-through 
sandwich baggie, slipped it 
into the shirt pocket covering
your heart, and later hid it 
in your satchel for the flight home.

Further back, you’re the first son 
of your family’s second generation 
born in America. Grandparents, uncles, 
aunts and cousins celebrated
your every breath as God’s 
gracious gift until you turned
four years old and your legs
grew into heavy, dead weight
that hurt anytime you walked 
anywhere. Your parents, fearing 
polio like your Uncle Dom,
went to early morning masses,
lit green novena candles 
and started collecting money 
to send you on a pilgrimage
to Lourdes. Doctors took countless
tests, kept you in a hospital
for six months where nuns
somberly patrolled the halls
and the kid in the next bed, 
an orphan, with one wooden leg, 
one wooden arm, and a pirate hook 
for a hand, somehow had the same
last name as yours. Your parents
brought both him and you gifts,
talked of taking him home too
as you grew sick with jealousy.
When they finally gave a label
to your disease, they cured it
with a Frankenstein boot, 
a leg brace and hours,
months of physical therapy
that made you stick out,
a cripple, separated from the rest
of the neighborhood kids
and the money was spent
on a station wagon to drive
back and forth to clinic visits.

Then yesterday, after a technician 
with a hard-to-understand
Russian accent kept asking you
to breathe in, breathe out, 
hold it, now breathe regularly
while tracing, rubbing 
a tiny camera over your chest 
and belly in a chilly room 
for too long, the cardiologist 
proclaimed your aorta was too
wide, susceptible to a rupture 
that could instantly kill you 
like the actor who starred 
in that crappy seventies sitcom
Three’s Company. He described
the procedure, the high rate 
of success and the surgeon 
as a miracle worker with hands 
like God, an enlightened plumber, 
replacing a pipe, tightening a valve. 

Stunned by the news, you sat
silently. On the subway home, 
you remembered the actor’s name,
John Ritter, and remembered
how good he was in Sling Blade 
and you wished that you still 
believed in any kind of God 
sometimes. You wished 
you didn’t have to tell your mom
or miss another visit with Jesse,
wished you remembered a plumber 
other than Dan Akyroyd bent 
beneath an overflowing sink 
on a lonely Saturday night, 
the crack of his ass peeking 
over the top of his pants, 
poised for the next straight line, 
laughing at you for ever
feeling indestructible, safe.

from Rattle #48, Summer 2015
Tribute to New Yorkers

[download audio]

__________

Tony Gloeggler: “A life-long resident of NYC, I was born in Brooklyn but left with my family during the white flight of the ’60s. I grew up in Flushing, now live in Richmond Hill, and helped open a group home for developmentally disabled kids in Boerum Hill, Brooklyn, decades before the quasi cool hordes moved in with their bars and restaurants, laptops, nannies and doggies to mess up one more fine NY neighborhood. Writing started out for me as the place where I got my thoughts and feelings down when I had no other place to bring them. It is still that place, the place I go to first when I’m trying to figure things out, way before I can say something to either myself or anyone else. I wrote this one after some bad, out of nowhere, overwhelming medical news and connected it to times when I remembered feeling very similar. Then after working it out, making it feel as right and true as I could I gave it some air and showed it around, read it out loud …”

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May 22, 2015

Tony Gloeggler

2B

I am the man who lives
in apartment 2B. I go
to work, come back late,
pick up the mail, throw
garbage down the chute.
I nod, smile at neighbors,
speak in short sentences,
keep my doorstep clean,
buy candy bars from kids
who knock at my door, tip
the janitor at Christmas.

The phone rarely rings
and no one visits.
I keep the windows shut,
shades pulled down. The walls
are bare, painted
bone-white. The tub
needs scrubbing and I never
make the bed. My wife
took my two daughters,
moved to Phoenix in April,
and my last good kiss
was six months ago.

Tonight, I will open
white cartons, eat beef
and broccoli with chopsticks,
watch the Knicks beat
the Pistons on cable, sit
at my desk, try to write
one perfect line. I’ll shut
all the lights, lie down
in bed, rub my cock
as though I were Aladdin
with one wish left.

from Rattle #13, Summer 2000

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March 23, 2015

Tony Gloeggler

THE LAST TIME I USED THE N WORD

Was back in the New York City crack years,
a perfectly crisp fall day, climbing out
of the F train hole and walking the block
and a half to the group home, decades
before Brooklyn grew too cool for its own
good. I nodded to old man Jose as he hung
flower pots from the awning of his store.
My hands were tucked in my pockets
and Van Morrison’s “Full Force Gale”
was blowing through my head when a kid
started walking next to me and said
almost in a whisper “mister give me
your wallet.” I lifted my hands, looked
him up and down, a thin, brown-skinned,
maybe thirteen-year-old kid and I smirked,
kept walking when another kid grabbed
my shoulder, said “we ain’t shittin’”
and pressed this tiny gun against my neck.
I just raised my arms to god on high
and surrendered as he dug deep
in my pockets until Jose yelled
something in Spanish and they tore
ass through the schoolyard, down
into the projects. I waved to Jose
and walked up the steps to my job,
rang the bell and Liz, who told everyone
that she was my black mama, asked
“child, what happened to you”
and wrapped me in her huge arms
saying “those fucking niggers”
and I mumbled mostly to myself
“yeah, those fucking niggers”
as if I was singing along to the radio
and the word felt so right, so good,
rolling, tumbling out of my mouth.

from Rattle #46, Winter 2014

[download audio]

__________

Tony Gloeggler: “I started writing as a way to try and figure things out for myself. It was mostly about things that people I knew didn’t talk about. And I think that’s why I still write. As a narrative poet, I’m often asked about how much of my material comes from everyday life and the answer, degree, depends on each poem. While all of the poems convey a true intent, the genuine feeling, I will sometimes change the actual facts to make the poem more effective. With this one, I didn’t have to change a thing. It happened exactly like this. I just wrote it down. I don’t think a lot of white poets write about race and I sat with it for years. I got a bit of a nudge when I became aware of the Hoagland/Rankine debate and I’m really interested in how these kinds of things play out on a Brooklyn street corner.”

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May 28, 2014

Tony Gloeggler

1969

My brother enlisted
in the winter. I pitched
for the sixth-grade Indians
and coach said
I was almost as good
as Johnny. My mother
fingered rosary beads,
watched Cronkite say
and that’s the way it is.
I smoked my first
and last cigarette. My father
kept his promise,
washed Johnny’s Mustang
every weekend. Brenda Whitson
taught me how to French kiss
in her basement. Sundays
we went to ten o’clock Mass,
dipped hands in holy water,
genuflected, walked down
the aisle and received
Communion. Cleon Jones
got down on one knee, caught
the last out and the Mets
won the World Series.
Two white-gloved Marines
rang the bell, stood
on our stoop. My father
watched their car
pull away, then locked
the wooden door. I went
to our room, climbed
into the top bunk,
pounded a hard ball
into his pillow. My mother
found her Bible, took
out my brother’s letters,
put them in the pocket
of her blue robe. My father
started Johnny’s car,
revved the engine
until every tool
hanging in the garage
shook.

from Rattle #25, Summer 2006
Tribute to the Best of Rattle

__________

Tony Gloeggler: “I’m not sure I ever wanted to be a writer or poet—in most ways I feel poetry is elitist and no one I grew up with or work with reads it and too often I can’t convince myself that they’re missing something important. I think writing poetry is just another of those things that always makes me feel like I don’t quite fit in. Like when I was a four-year-old and wore this big heavy leg brace and a huge Frankenstein boot on the other or when I was a superstar schoolyard jock with hair down to my ass or when I was a long hair and never touched any drugs or when I’m the only Caucasian in the group home where I work or I’m a poet who perfectly understands why hardly anyone reads poetry or needs to. Still, I write poetry and it matters a lot to me. I write for myself, though I would love to have a lot of people read my work. But mostly I feel at home when I’m writing, like I’m doing one of the things I’m supposed to do and when I get it right, when a poem is done and I can tell it’s good, well, it just lifts me. It makes me fool myself into believing that I was the only one who could do this, make this poem, and it’s one of those times when sticking out or standing out is all good.” (web)

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May 12, 2014

Tony Gloeggler

NUMBER 32

Today I am taking the A Train
away from Duke Ellington’s
Harlem and into East New York,
Brooklyn. This beautiful tall blonde
and I are the only two caucasians
in the crowded car. With each stop,
we move closer, pulled
together by some unnamed force.
We both know not to look
at anyone too long and even
when I make eye contact
with her, I pause for less
than a second before rushing
to read advertisements for laser
surgery. I am not scared,
not worried, just incredibly aware
of how white, like a bleached
sheet drying on a line, I feel.
I want to lean, whisper
in a cool, irresistible way
for her to come to my place
so we can hurry up and start
making some more of us,
when this young, buffed,
light skin, black man, struts
onto the train wearing
a Buffalo Bills number 32
Simpson jersey, and I want
to know what it means
to him and everyone else.
Is it sweep right, OJ gliding
behind Reggie McKenzie,
piling up 2000 yards? OJ
hurtling suitcases in crowded
airports for Hertz, guest
starring on the Love Boat?

This guy in the jersey must
remember that slow motion
car chase interrupting the Knick
playoff game? OJ’s murdered
white ex-wife and the white guy
who drove her home? Johnny
Cocharan? Me, I was working
at the group home, the only
white person on the payroll
with people I still call friends
when the not guilty verdict
was announced. I watched
Jean fall to her knees, thank
Jesus as her arms reached
for the ceiling. Annette twiriled
in a circle clapping so hard
that sparks of sweat shot out.
The two men shook hands.
I wasn’t quite sure why,
but I realized it was a time
when we couldn’t say anything
to each other. I walked outside,
sat on the stoop and waited
for yellow buses to bring
our boys home from school.
Back on the subway, that guy
is talking to the woman, jotting
numbers on a scrap of paper
and she’s smiling, touching
her pretty blonde hair while folding
the paper in her jacket pocket.
Maybe she will call him tomorrow.
They can go for drinks or dinner
or dancing. Maybe they will fall
in love, spend their honeymoon
searching for the real killers.

from Rattle #23, Spring 2005

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April 27, 2014


Tony Gloeggler

GOY

I tell you to let it ring.
You give my lips a quick
kiss, lean over and pick
up the phone. You say
Hello, press your palm
over the mouthpiece, whisper,
It’s my mother. You move
to the edge of the bed, turn
away and sit up, answer,
Yeah.
                    No, no.
                                        Stop
doing this to me, Mom.

I slide across the bed,
kiss soft shoulders, glide
my lips down your spine, fit
my tongue in the crack
of your ass. You look back,
your eyes ask me to please
stop. I shake my head
sideways, smile. Not
a chance. I crawl out
of bed, kneel in front
of you. My lips, tongue
stroke thighs, kiss and lick
you open, move inside you,
try to make you come.
Come, while your mother
swears on the bodies
of her two brothers
gassed at Dachau
that I will slowly
swallow your soul.

from Rattle #10, Winter 1998

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