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February 19, 2024


By Tony Gloeggler


I hug my mother, try to put
a twenty into her hand,
convince her to take a taxi
home. I feed him a few
spoonfuls of cherry jello,
hold the cup as he sucks
a bent straw. We both feel
better when he falls asleep.
We love each other, but ran
out of things to say last
Monday. We stopped talking
about the time I was five
riding on his shoulders
as he carried me up
the ramp for my first look
at the Yankee Stadium infield
as green and magical as Gates
to Emerald City; or at nineteen
when he changed his seat
at the dinner table, told
my mother he couldn't keep
his food down while looking
at me and my friggin' long hair.
I kept staring at my plate,
ate faster. I must have sighed
or raised my eyes to the ceiling
because he charged around the table,
grabbed the back of my hair,
yanked on it and held me there,
balanced on the back legs
of the chair, daring me to make
one more friggin' sound
as my mother kept yelling
his name, yelling Johnny let go.

I sit and watch Seinfeld
re-running on the screen
hanging over his head,
try to anticipate the lines
that always make me laugh.
Later, I sit by the window,
stare at the buildings lighting
up, kitchen after kitchen.
I nod to the daughter
of the man in the next bed
as she walks in. He's dying
too. I watch her ass, wish
this was a movie. We'd go
to dinner, linger over
coffee in a nearby café,
hold hands while we wait
for a light to change, end up
in her cramped apartment.
But no, there's nothing to say
or do. Our fathers are racing
in slow motion toward whatever
comes next or nothing
at all. Neither of us sure
if the winner is the one
who fights to stay alive
or lets go, dies tonight.

First published in Poet Lore.

Article © Tony Gloeggler. All rights reserved.
Published on 2019-05-20
Image(s) are public domain.
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