Poetry / Poets / Writers / Writing

Poems by Tony Gloegger


I sit at the head
of the table now.
The funeral director
opens his book, shows
pictures of caskets,
flower arrangements, quotes,
prices. I turn pages, point,
nod. My mother chooses
a wool suit for him
to wear. “His favorite,”
my sister says twice.
It’s navy blue,
like my catholic school
uniform. I remember
that first Monday morning
how he wiped a clear space
in the steamed-up mirror,
crouched behind me, knotted
my tie and splashed a bit
of Old Spice on my face.
There will be two days
to view the body
at Duden’s funeral home
back in Brooklyn. Last Christmas,
I drove him to Midnight Mass.
When he asked me to come
inside, I coughed, said, “Dad,
you know I stopped believing
years ago.” He grabbed
the door handle, answered,
“Not even tonight?”
I touched the radio knobs,
told him I’d be out front
by one. I drove halfway
down the block, stopped
and watched in the rear view
mirror, the way he gripped
the railing as he climbed
the steps carefully, paused
at the door and tried
to catch his breath.
Mass will be at St Lucy’s,
ten o’clock, Tuesday morning.
Father Eugene will lead the service
and I will read the eulogy.


Linda’s upstairs, showing
her mother the pink outfit
she bought for Cindy’s first Easter.
Jim sits in the basement apartment,
stretches his legs on the table,
listens to a Grateful Dead
bootleg, drinks another Rolling
Rock. Mosquitoes buzz, land
on window screens. He picks
a scab off his elbow, flicks it
to the floor. Greasy dishes float
in a tub of gray suds. Jim taps
his ring finger against the can,
keeps the beat. He drinks the last
drop, walks to the back door,
watches all-day rain hit the car.

           “Are you sure,” he asked?
           “Yeah, I called the clinic
           yesterday.” He stared
           at the ground, pounded
           his fist against the grill.
           He’d been saving for a trip
           out west, a new set of tires.
           She bit her lip, tucked frizzy hairs
                     behind her ear, “I can’t
                     kill my baby.” He kicked gravel
                     in a puddle, touched her arm.

Linda brings the baby down,
lays her in the crib. “Mom
went out shopping.” Stepping back,
she loosens her robe. He leans
forward, kisses her full breasts,
licks the warm milk leaking
from red nipples. She crouches,
unbuttons his jeans. Her fingers
fondle his balls. She kisses
the tip, swirls her tongue
around the head, slides down
foreskin. She takes it in her mouth,
sucks gently. He stays soft.
She lifts her head, says “Baby,
what’s wrong?” He shuts his eyes,
feels her saliva chill.


I watched
the 11 o’clock news
all the way through
on a school night
to read: James Green
Queens, New York
roll down the screen
with this week’s dead

who lifted me
on his shoulders
and held me there
while I fastened
the net’s white loops
tightly on his new
backyard hoop


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