Vox Populi

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Tony Gloeggler: What Anyone Knows

Robert’s twin sister calls

to tell me that their mom died.  

I offer condolences, ask 

when did it happen.  Twenty 

years ago, I’d see her 

as she regularly visited 

Robert at the group home

and I learned where Robert 

got his sweetness, his warmth. 

Recently, we’d drive him out

to Long Island for extended 

weekend stays five, six times 

a year. I’d sit at my desk, watch 

his eyes light up as he blew sloppy 

kisses and mumbled he loved her too

on his weekly phone call. Joanne 

wants to know what we should do 

about Robert, the guy who was pulled

out of the womb after her. Diagnosed 

with mental retardation and cerebral 

palsy, he spent his early childhood 

in Willowbrook hell. She wonders 

how much of it he’d understand,

what would happen when he saw 

his mom lying in the coffin, whether 

he’d kick and yell, throw himself 

on the floor when it was time 

to leave, would he ever stop

crying. I wonder what anyone 

knows about death, but tell her 

I think he should participate. 

No one knows how much 

Robert understands anything

since he can’t tell you himself,

but I feel sure that sitting

in the church with the organ

mourning, the incense rising

as they close the casket

will be something he’ll remember 

whenever he goes home 

to his family and never sees 

his mom again no matter

how many times he asks

and he’ll make some kind

of connection. I tell her 

we’ll put on his suit, sit 

nearby and help him 

with anything he needs, 

and he’ll get through 

that day the same way 

he gets through his life.

Copyright 2022 Tony Gloeggler. First published in Chiron Review. Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.

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, One, Crab Creek Review. His most recent book, What Kind Of Man, with NYQ Books was a finalist for the 2021 Paterson Poetry Prize and long listed for Jacar Press’s Julie Suk Award.

Tony Gloeggler

16 comments on “Tony Gloeggler: What Anyone Knows

  1. Lisa Zimmerman
    June 26, 2022

    What a beautiful and tender poem. My nephew is autistic and sobbed through his sister’s wedding. We cannot know what these beautiful human beings are thinking and feeling. We can love them no matter what. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      June 26, 2022

      Thank you for this beautiful sentiment, Lisa. I wish more people would see difference as a good thing.

      Love, M.


      Liked by 2 people

  2. Lex Runciman
    June 23, 2022

    Yes to all the Roberts…

    Liked by 2 people

  3. loranneke
    June 23, 2022

    I’m so glad you offer us Tony Gloeggler poems — I have loved his work for 3 decades — knew him when he didn’t have a book and read his poem at Cornelia Street Café in the Village…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Vox Populi
      June 23, 2022

      I’m glad to hear this, Laure-Anne. Tony’s work is a new discovery for me. His narrative poems seem simple, but actually they are layered with an emotional complexity that shows his gentle humanity.

      Liked by 3 people

    • Tony Gloeggler
      June 24, 2022

      Thanks Laure-Anne…really appreciate your support, then & now


  4. vengodalmare
    June 23, 2022

    How much desperate sweetness in this beautiful poem. It’s sad not to be able to do anything more…

    Liked by 2 people

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This entry was posted on June 23, 2022 by in Health and Nutrition, Poetry, Social Justice and tagged , , , .

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