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When the sky darkens, threatens
storms, planes alter take-off patterns,
start flying low over my sister’s house.
Flipping burgers, turning sausages
on the grill, she’s hoping to beat
the rain. In the basement, I’m watching
the Celtics manhandle Kevin Durant
while my mother sleeps, hoping
it won’t be too long before I eat.
I’m thinking about some long ago
Summer night, my father walking in
from work, announcing we’re going
out for dinner. Driving down Utopia
Parkway, we’re headed for his favorite
Italian restaurant, nothing fancy,
food tasting a lot like my mom’s,
nearly as good. I always ordered
a corner square of lasagna, clams
on the half shell, that slurping
sound as I sucked them down
with a root beer from the fountain.
My sister yells down the stairs
how do you want your burgers,
cheese or not?
we’d drive a little further, park
in this grassy field, watch planes
taxi, take off from Idlewild. Other
families might dream of far away
places, a big world to explore. Maybe,
Mom mentioned California, cousins
we never met, Disneyland. My sister,
7 years old, practiced pirouettes,
cartwheels, showing off dance school
moves, dreaming of Rockettes, Radio
City. My father opened the trunk,
tossed me my glove with a worn
hardball tucked in its pocket, eased
into a catcher’s crouch as I paced
60 feet away. At 14, I still believed
I’d grow up to be Al Downing.
We were never encouraged
to reach or imagine, never pushed
by a fairy tale immigrant dream,
become the doctor, the lawyer,
that lifted their people higher,
write or even read the great
My sister married
at 18, gave birth to 2 boys, stopped
teaching tap and acrobatics when
Covid hit. Now, she takes care
of 90 year old mom. I avoided
the draft, finally finished college
and, unlike my father, found a job
I loved, happily worked 40 years
and learned to live with loneliness.
I ride the Long Island Railroad
3 days a week, help with my mom.
Donna brings down a platter filled
with meat. I cut sausage, break
a burger into tiny pieces, tell mom
open up, fork-feed her. I bite
into my burger as she chews,
lick the blood that wets my lips
knowing it’s a waste of time
to talk how different, better
anyone’s life could have been,
but thinking it might be something
worth writing about, working
into a poem, or maybe not.
Copyright 2022 Tony Gloeggler
Tony Gloeggler’s books include What Kind of Man (NYQ Books, 2020). He is a life-long resident of New York City.
I love this. The imagery is so visceral and present with the multi layered subtext both sad and sweet.
Thank you, Barbara
I love this poem. When I returned to Pgh in 1997, I read an op-ed in the local paper about, well, it was about classism, but I don’t think the writer knew that. And the writer remembered and lamented going to the (old) Pittsburgh Airport to watch airplanes carry other people to other places. I took such umbrage at the disparagement of one of my sweetest childhood memories. Thanks Tony, for putting it in the same place with Working Class Heroes. Never encouraged never pushed. Pass the burgers, please.
Thank you Emily
Well-said, Emily. Thank you.
Life’s twists and turns and memories and regrets and just this and nevermores and forevers and the taste of burgers I no longer eat. Thank you.
LikeLiked by 1 person
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