I probably started writing because nobody I knew was talking about the things I was feeling and thinking. Mostly my poems are attempts at finding some sort of connection on a different level—and I think that’s what I am still trying to do. These two poems were first published in Rattle. If you want to check out more of my work, my books include ONE WISH LEFT with Pavement Saw Press and THE LAST LIE with New York Quarterly Books. UNTIL THE LAST LIGHT LEAVES which focuses on my relationship with a an ex-girlfriend’s autistic son and my more than 30 years managing group homes for the developmentally disabled is forthcoming with NYQ Books.
Editor's Note: Thanks so much to Tony Gloeggler for allowing me to reprint these incredible poems in Verse-Virtual.
A Good Bad Day
John walks slowly up the stairs
to my office every day. Between
four and four-thirty, after the bus
brings him home from day program
and after he uses the bathroom,
he says, “Oh, hello Tony,” as if
he’s surprised to find me
sitting at my desk. He says
he had a good day, stands
by a chair and after six years
of living at the residence,
his home, he still hesitates,
wonders if he needs permission
to sit down. I don’t give it,
wait until he sits on his own.
He tells me if he read or colored,
exercised or sang today and I ask
questions as if I was his mother.
Maybe he went to a park, a store,
the library. All along he wears
this pleasant, half-smiling,
perfectly balanced, Zen-like gaze
across his Fred Flintstone face
and I don’t know if I’m stressed
or bored, mean or just a smart-ass
acting like we are friends;
but when he asks me about my day
sometimes I tell him the truth.
Uselessly endless meetings, piles
of paperwork, asshole administrators.
Not enough sleep. Girlfriend trouble.
Yesterday, I told him that a woman
I loved is getting married on a boat
in September and I wished
I owned a torpedo. He didn’t say
anything, just sat there smiling
and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help it,
I had to ask him if he ever
had a bad day. When he said no,
none that he could remember,
I said are you sure. He said,
"I don’t think so," and looked like
he was thinking hard. I leaned
forward, said that I felt very sad
when my father died and I wondered
how he felt when his mom and dad
passed away. John jutted out his chin,
looked beyond me and said, "Yeah,
that was a bad day." When I asked
if he missed them, he chewed
on his lips, said, "Sometimes,"
and I said, "I know what you mean."
After we dropped dirt
on my father’s coffin
the long line of cars
drove back to the house.
We stood in circles,
took turns sitting
at the kitchen counter
and ate cold cuts.
My mother introduced me
to all her work friends
as her son, the poet.
One young woman knew
it wasn’t the time or place,
but always wondered why
people wrote poetry. I told her
I hoped to become rich
and famous, fall in and out
of love with multitudes of smart,
beautiful, mixed-up women.
She shook her head, said
maybe I should leave you alone
so you can go somewhere
and write. I didn’t follow
her, didn’t apologize for acting
like an asshole. I walked
upstairs, opened the door
to my old room, looked
for my bed and desk, my stacks
of albums. I wanted to blast
“Darkness on the Edge
of Town,” start writing
in a new notebook. I wanted
my father to pound his fist
on the door, yell turn
that goddamn shit down,
stick his head inside and ask
what are you doing anyway?
I wanted to hand him
my notebook, watch him
sit in his chair, turn on
the lamp and read, slowly,
his forefinger underlining
all the words, his lips
whispering every syllable.
Credits: 'A Good Bad Day' and 'Anyway' were originally published in Rattle
©2015 Tony Gloeggler