Vox Populi

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Tony Gloeggler: A Mother, A Disabled Son And Residential Placement

I’m getting to know our recently

hired, part-time, two half days 

a week nurse over morning coffee. 

She’s thinking about trying to find 

a group home for her son. I offer her 

half my bacon, egg n cheese bagel. 

Levi’s 13 years old, severely autistic. 

He’s growing bigger, stronger, out 

of control, biting, hitting, constantly 

masturbating with an active seizure 

condition. With her divorce, part-time

job, a younger daughter, the 24 hour, 

7 days a week worrying about her son, 

she’s beginning to feel overwhelmed. 

I smirk, crack I can’t imagine why. 

She wishes our residence had an opening. 

I thank her for the compliment, beam. 


When she asks about other homes

In the agency, I shake my head sideways.

The only one I’d consider is also full. 

Savoring the bacon. She names other 

agencies. I tell her what I know, heard. 

I talk about criteria, staff-client ratio, 

low turnover rate, be sure to read the logs, 

note community activities for frequency, 

types they go on, make sure its different 

places for various things, talk to any client 

who communicates, sit in on dinner, feel 

its rhythm, hope for informal conversation 

some joking around, banter  among staff, 

ask too many questions, give it a big plus 

if they pass you a plate and you want to ask 

for more but don’t, notice that each client 

eats at their own pace, some reach for more, 

others push food away without looking

to staff, clarify visiting policies. Oh It’s time

for work, the paper-work portion: Payroll, 

scheduling for me, James and Florencio’s

annual medical reports, arranging Larry’s 

overdue psych eval, med inventory for her.


We’ll sit together for lunch. She brings 

salads in Tupperware. I’ll probably order 

Mondongo, a quarter chicken, rice, beans

from the Dominican place, try to tempt 

her again. I wonder if she’ll open up, 

tell me how long she’s been thinking about 

giving up her child to a bunch of strangers, 

how the first time the thought entered 

her mind and she fought it off, frightened 

and disgusted by its appearance, trying

to slow down the possibility, the building

realization she can’t take care of her son, 

keep him, her daughter and herself safe, 

wondering what her family, friends, staff  

in the group home will think of her. After

awhile, she’d convince herself it’s good

for Levi and I’d tell her in a lot of ways

she’s right. But her son, poor Levi, probably 

never spent a day without her, how much

of this he will never understand walking 

up the stairs, his mommy carrying 

his suitcases into the room he shares 

with a husky black man who’s staring out 

the window, body bouncing to sounds 

thumping through earplugs, her eyes

tearing as she hangs clothes in his closet, 

places a framed photo of him, his sister, 

her on the nightstand by his bed, finally 

wrapping her arms around him, smothering 

him with sloppy kisses and leaving him 

behind as panic pops into, fills his eyes.


Back home while cooking dinner, she’ll think 

about Levi when she doesn’t have to cut meat

into bite-sized pieces. The table will feel 

empty, weird. Her daughter will ask so many 

questions about Levi’s new home. Her too wide 

smiles will enhance her too long answers. 

She calls the residence after dinner. Levi doesn’t 

speak, doesn’t tolerate phones and staff says 

he’s doing OK, mostly cooperative. She calls 

at Levi’s bedtime, asks staff to hold the phone

close to his ear. Good night, love you honey

When she can’t sleep, she checks on her daughter, 

tries not to call the residence again, apologizes 

as soon as someone picks up, wonders if, 

when she will ever sleep. She can’t wait to visit 

on the weekend, bring him his favorite snacks, 

a word search book. She promises to come back

every weekend, tries not to cry when she hugs 

him goodbye, but maybe never tells anyone 

about the slivers of relief she sometimes feels

peeking from beneath her deep, haunted grief. 

Copyright 2023 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

15 comments on “Tony Gloeggler: A Mother, A Disabled Son And Residential Placement

  1. melpacker
    April 5, 2023

    I’m not sure why I like this poem, or even if I like it, or if I’m angry, or if I’m sad, or if this poem brings out all of the above and all at once and makes it hard to even write this as tears form. But I do and I am. Thanks to Tony Gloeggler and VP.


    • Vox Populi
      April 5, 2023

      Yes, I know what you mean, Mel. The poem brings out contradictory feelings and thoughts.


      Liked by 1 person

  2. poco1969
    April 4, 2023

    Thanks everyone for taking the time to read this poem, a long one. I had seen a recent poem with a similar title and while it had some beautiful metaphor, it didn’t let anybody know what the process was like or the kid’s feelings, the myriad of emotions. I tried to take care of some of that part.


  3. Rose Mary Boehm
    April 4, 2023



  4. Mary Jane White
    April 4, 2023

    This is accurate and an empathic view into the lives of many families whom I represented over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      April 4, 2023

      Thanks, Mary Jane. The struggles of autistic people are a group of issues you’ve spent most of your life engaged in. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Robbi Nester
    April 4, 2023

    Such an eloquent poem, full of the woman’s grief and guilt.


  6. Barbara Huntington
    April 4, 2023

    Well now I’m blubbering and I know, I know.


  7. Loranneke
    April 4, 2023

    I would recognize poems by Tony anywhere — without his name being mentioned. Just like poems by Gerald Stern, or Lucille Clifton, Brigit Kelly or Larry Levis: Tony’s voice, tone, subject matter and that heart!


  8. Janice Falls
    April 4, 2023

    This is so gorgeously expressed, so necessary for people to hear, for all of us to open our hearts wider. Thank you Tony for this and all your other poems.


    • Vox Populi
      April 4, 2023

      I agree, Janice. Tony’s poems are important, unique and necessary.



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