It’s an early Monday morning

and I’m leaning against the door

of the E train, scanning the faces

of other riders. My eyes stumble

on a well dressed black man sitting

across the car, crying quietly,

streaks making their way down

his face, shoulders starting to stutter

until he bends over, tries to cover

his face with his dark brown fedora.

I look around, half the passengers

are lost to their iPhones, the others

are either looking away defiantly,

or like me, trying to believe their eyes,

feeling uncomfortable, hoping someone

would get up, do something. Maybe

the Spanish grandmother reading

her Bible. She can offer a quote, fill him

with spirit and hope, maybe put an arm

around him, pull him close. A little girl

asks her mom why is that man crying

as the train pulls into Queensboro Plaza.

I dash across the platform to catch

my transfer, miss the answer.

All day that man’s tears stay with me,

make me recall how my ex once cried

for who knows why by the turnstile

at the West Fourth Street station,

how easily, how often she would start

to cry over something I did or didn’t do,

her frustration at the way the world never

fell into place or her endless worry

over what will happen to her autistic son

when she lies down and dies, exhausted.

I remember how I loved to hold her,

the times I helped her and the time

I tried not to cry when she decided

she was better off, happier, without me.

Originally published in Poet Lore.

Your Kind of Life

It’s another Saturday

and your father is still

dead. Your softball game’s

over and you’re visiting

your mother. You finished

showering, your hair is dripping

dry and you’re going to get

the paper. Does she need

anything? Milk, Italian bread,

cigarettes, her husband? She wants

to give you money, but you’re out

the door and down the stoop

before she finds her pocketbook.

The block is lined with attached,

one family houses and everyone

you knew moved years ago.

No one is playing stickball

in the streets. The schoolyard

backboards are all torn down

and the silver poles stick out

of the tar like crooked grave

markers and you feel like

a ghost. You turn the corner:

a man, three boys walk your way.

But no, he isn’t your father

and the boys have nothing

to do with you, your two brothers.

It’s just Jarod Jordan, the guy

who married your first girlfriend.

You stop, grasp hands, remember

always liking him, and wish

it didn’t make you feel so good

to see he’s fat and bald as a bowl.

You ask about Julia. He introduces

his three boys. Their names

all begin with the letter J

and they live in Jericho

with their mother. He’s in a hurry,

says he hopes to run into you again.

You watch him walk away,

picture following him home,

hiding behind bushes and trees

maybe catch a glimpse

of Julia picking up her kids.

Her hair is still long and soft

and black, and you fall in love

again. You’ll start with dinner,

live happily ever after.

Sorry, but you know that isn’t

your kind of life. In your life

you drop the shopping bag

on the kitchen counter, help

your mother put the groceries

away. Maybe you’ll stay

the night, keep her company.

She’s in bed by ten.

you go out for a walk, stop

in the neighborhood bar,

find Jarod sitting on a stool.

The Yankees are playing

on TV. Someone slides

quarters in the juke box

and the Allman Brothers

jam the Fillmore East again.

You buy each other beers.

He wants to tell you he misses

Julia and his boys, that he feels

his life is over. You want to say

you don’t know if you ever

got over any of the women

you loved. Instead, you argue

how many millions Bernie Williams

is worth, whether “Time Out Of Mind”

is as good as “Blood On The Tracks.”

When he drinks enough, he tells you

how lucky you are to never

have married. He loves his kids

to death, but the damn alimony

is killing him. He scribbles

numbers  on a napkin, laughs.

Here,  help me out, give Julia

a call. She still looks good.

When it gets late enough,

you talk louder and louder,

point your finger at him,

tell him to be a good father,

like your father. Play ball

with those boys. Teach them

to get down, stay in front

of grounders, hit the open

man and never spike the ball

after a touchdown. Teach them

to say what they mean and to do

everything they say. You stumble

Home, climb upstairs to the room

you slept in as a boy, drop

face down onto the bed,

your clothes still on. You hear

footsteps padding the rug, feel

fingers unlacing your sneakers.

You’re too tired, too dizzy

to turn, look up at your mother.

She leans over you, covers you

with a comforter. You lie still

knowing she’s standing there,

and hope she sees something

that reminds her of her husband

before she walks back to her room

and lies down, tries to sleep.

Originally published in Skidrow Penthouse.

Tony Gloeggler is a life-long resident of New York City and managed group homes for the mentally challenged for over 40 years. His work has appeared in Rattle, Chiron Review, New Ohio Review, Nerve Cowboy and Naugatuck River Review. His most recent book, What Kind Of Man, published by NYQ Books, was long listed by Jacar Press and named a finalist for the 2021 Paterson Poetry Prize.