Tony Gloeggler: “Knowledge”

Tony Gloeggler is a life long resident of NYC’s boroughs and manages group homes for the developmentally disabled in Brooklyn. His poems have recently been published in The Raleigh Review, Rattle, the Chiron Review, Mas Tequila Review, Nerve Cowboy, and Paterson Literary Review. He’s been nominated for Pushcarts a handful of times and would like to know who he needs to talk to to have  chance to actually get one. He has published two full length collections (ONE WISH LEFT/Pavement Saw Press and THE LAST LIE/NYQ Books). Two collections are forthcoming: a full length with NYQ Books titled UNTIL THE LAST LIGHT LEAVES and a ‘Duo’ with the photographer Marco North with Bittersweet Editions to be released in September. Both books focus on his 35 years working with the developmentally disabled and his connection with the autistic son of an ex-girlfriend.

*****

Knowledge

Larry’s not smart enough
to know he’s retarded.
He’s unaware he’s built
like a bowling pin,
that his shaved head shines
like Mr. Clean and everybody
stares when he waddles
down the block. He’s happy
holding my hand, crossing
the street to eat pizza.
We order a large pie, slide
in a booth and wait for Nancy.
Larry blows a wolf whistle
when we kiss and I fit
my tongue into her mouth.
He eats three slices, slurps
the cheese stringing down
his chin, sucks the sauce
off his fingers and sips
Pepsi. Every loud burp
is a gunshot of joy.

Last month, we spent
our first night together.
We stopped at the Bodega,
picked up pieces of fruit,
orange juice and a bunch
of blue flowers. She played
Rickie Lee Jones and we kissed
on the couch like junior high,
tugged at each other’s clothes,
moved to the bedroom, lit
candles. We fucked and fucked
until she made me promise
to let her sleep. She wrapped
my arms around her,
curled into me. I stayed
awake, kept watch all night.

I hug Larry goodbye
on the stoop, watch him
walk inside the residence
with his counselor. I know
she’ll help him bathe, brush
his teeth, button his pajamas.
She’ll tuck him in, shut
the door behind her. Larry
will wait for quiet, pull
down his bottoms and turn
on his stomach. He’ll slide
the pillow between his thighs,
bunch it into a ball,
hump it until he comes.
He’ll finger paint the silky
thick liquid across his chest,
lift it to his nose, sniff,
then taste it. I don’t know
who or what fills his head
these moments. Long lean
blondes? Muscular black
men in motorcycle boots?
Down’s Syndrome women
and their light blue eyes,
full floppy breasts? Is his mind
empty like a Buddhist’s,
content with the feel of his own
skin, the heat and the speed
building until he reinvents fire?

Larry will probably die
in that Catholic group home
for six men in Brooklyn.
He will never lie down
with a woman, never sleep
next to someone he loves
for seven years, roll together
in the middle of the night,
half asleep, and wake to find
himself moving inside her.
He’ll never have to forget
that Sunday morning, the bagels
and hot chocolate, the way
she says she has to talk to him
and she doesn’t know where
to begin. She’s not sure how
it happened, and she never wanted
to hurt him; but she doesn’t
love him anymore and she thinks
she needs to leave. Larry
will never find out how long
it takes to learn to sleep
alone again. And years later
he will never meet someone
new. He will never go
home with her that first
night, never lie awake,
watch her eyelids jerk
as part of some dream
and wonder if tonight
could be the beginning
of something holy.

(Author photo by Marco North)

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