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March 27, 2023


By Tony Gloeggler


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 up hill,
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 Esquipulas
in the famished ground,
carrying it to Santa Cruz,
only to have it disappear
three times and return
miraculously 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 sit com
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 over flowing 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 The Last Lie

Article © Tony Gloeggler. All rights reserved.
Published on 2017-11-06
Image(s) are public domain.
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