Vox Populi

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Tony Gloeggler: Working Class Heroes

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?

                                After dinner, 

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 

American novel. 

                                 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.

Tony Gloeggler

8 comments on “Tony Gloeggler: Working Class Heroes

  1. allisonfine
    November 29, 2022

    I love this. The imagery is so visceral and present with the multi layered subtext both sad and sweet.


  2. Tony Gloeggler
    November 29, 2022

    Thanks Barbara


  3. Tony Gloeggler
    November 29, 2022

    Thank you, Barbara


  4. Emily De Ferrari
    November 29, 2022

    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.


    • Tony Gloeggler
      November 29, 2022

      Thank you Emily


    • Vox Populi
      November 29, 2022

      Well-said, Emily. Thank you.



  5. Barbara Huntington
    November 29, 2022

    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.


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