Side A Poem: “Honestly” by Tony Gloeggler


To pass the hours I spend
by her bedside, I ask mom
a lot of questions, some dumb
to make her laugh about farts
on elevators, falls in hotel halls,
her famous poor eyesight,
walking into wrong bathrooms,
setting her beehive hair-do
on fire with her lit cigarette.
Anything to take her mind
off her pain, a breath
from boredom. Some questions
uncover things I never knew
or remind me of a few
I’ve forgotten: Uncle Dom
coming over on the boat
from Italy without polio,
Cousin Louie, who I never
liked, losing his leg in the war,
Grandpa’s arranged marriage
back in Naples, sneaking
away after he met his bride,
Sunset Pool, the roaring lions
pouring water out of their mouths,
the Sunday I nearly drowned,
Daddy giving me mouth to mouth.

I’ll place a bowl of Cheez-Its
in her lap, drop a Milk Dud
or Jordan Almond, spoon melon
into her mouth. Sometimes
I’ll ask who’s her funniest,
prettiest friend, her smartest,
kid, press her for the truth,
ask what she remembered
about my girlfriends. Julia
the most beautiful, Helen’s
bright blue eyes, the perfect
mother for Jesse, but Erica
was the one for me. Right
on all three. I’ll ask what
she likes most about each
of her kids. When she gets
to me, she says honesty,

In between, my sister
comes down. We switch
mom’s position, clean
her ass after she craps,
sponge bathe her, apply
creams and baby powder
as she screams and cries
we’re killing her, she’s cold,
cover her, hurry, help her,
over and over and I’ll say
I’m sorry, we’re doing all
we can. Finally, calm again,
we’ll talk about dinner, baked
ziti, cheese macaroni, a stromboli,
all recent favorites. As the sun
goes down, she grows irrational,
more fearful, asks me to stay.
I say I’ve been here all day,
explain I’ll be back Saturday
and she’ll tell me she never
knew I could be so mean,
that nobody cares about her,
nobody does anything for her,
nobody has any compassion,
I only come out of obligation,
that I’m so happy to be going
home. I lean over, kiss her,
tell her I’ll be back before
she knows, get some sleep,
and leave.

Mini-interview with Tony Gloeggler

HFR: Can you share a moment that has shaped you as a writer (or continues to)?

TG: What started me writing was listening to music and noticing the lyrics, writing them in spiral notebooks and then trying to do it-even rhyming—which I truly sucked at … even now I’d like to write like a blend of Dylan/Blood on The Tracks, Springsteen/Darkness, Jackson Browne/Late For The Sky.

HFR: What are you reading?

TG: A lot of friends post poems-theirs and other people’s—on Facebook and some of them are pretty great. I’m getting Sean Thomas Dougherty’s latest book and Rebecca Schumedja’s recent chapbook in the mail and they are two of my faves. So, I’m psyched. Before COVID laziness settled over my mind, I preferred fiction. Miriam Toews’ Women Talking and North of Dawn by Nuruddin Farah were the last things I loved.

HFR: Can you tell us what prompted “Honestly”?

TG: My mom’s been bedridden since Christmas. I stay with her 6 hours/3 days a week and it’s rough. She’s legally blind and in pain and not the most cooperative patient, but her vitals are stable and she’s afraid of dying. I’m helping to take care of her the best I can. Sometimes I’m more empathetic than others … it sucks. Writing—turning shit into a poem I feel good about—is a release and then it’s easier to think about something else.

HFR: What’s next? What are you working on?

TG: I mostly just work from poem to poem. When I get something stuck in my thoughts, I sit down and try to turn it into a poem. There’s been a lot about my mom lately. It’s been 2-2.5 years since my last book and usually I wait 5 years before I start to think I have enough poems that are good enough to be in a book. But I retired 2 years ago and I guess I’ve written a bit more even though there’s less to write about. So, I did put together a new manuscript and entered it in a contest.

HFR: Take the floor. Be political. Be fanatical. Be anything. What do you want to share?

TG: I usually don’t take the floor unless it’s a response to someone saying something I don’t agree with. I’m better at counter punching against the PC ultra sensitive folks. 

Things that I can get fanatical about are music, baseball, and autistic/developmentally disabled folks. 

And, oh yeah, will we ever be able to hang Trump for treason?

Tony Gloeggler is a life-long resident of NYC and managed group homes for the mentally challenged for over 40 years. His work has appeared in Rattle, New Ohio Review, Crab Creek Review, Nerve Cowboy, and BODY. His most recent book, What Kind Of Man, published by NYQ Books, was a finalist for the 2021 Paterson Poetry Prize and long listed for Jacar Press’ Julie Suk Award.

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