The moral of these stories is that all blessings are mixed

                        From John Updike’s intro for TOO FAR TO GO

These days we make

appointments to play

slow motion basketball

in Long Island City, sit

on benches to catch

our breath and guzzle

bottled water while we talk

about my calves swelling

like a pregnant woman’s,

taking Lasix and pissing every

fifteen minutes until Tom

breaks in, begins to tell us

about last Thursday, walking

down some specialist’s long

hallway for the second time,

jerking off to vintage black

and white porn, trying

to find out if it’s his sperm

preventing him and his girlfriend

from going forth, multiplying.

Grot describes the screams

and moans his wife made

in the delivery room,

how scared he felt holding

his daughter the first time,

worrying he might drop

the tiny slippery thing

and realizing he knew

nothing about raising

a kid, that he was saying

a final goodbye to his old

simple life as he watched

the doctor stitch the C section

closed. He winces, picks up

the basketball and starts

telling us how he rushes

home every day from work 

and he and his wife lie quietly

on their queen sized bed

with their dark haired girl

between them, asleep, forming

some kind of blessed trinity.

We take the court for the last

game of the day thinking 

of friends and siblings

who feel desperately helpless

as a son flounders through

first grade already wondering

if he’s good enough, a daughter

shutting her bedroom door

struggling not to cut herself.

My friends know all about my ex

girl friend and her autistic son

who rarely speaks and only

in quick brash phrases when

he sees something he wants

to touch or eat immediately.

They know I flew into Portland,

spent the July 4th weekend

with him and they both nodded,

understood what it meant

when driving back to the airport

Jesse leaned forward, tapped

his mom’s shoulder, clearly

said, “Tony, come again August.”

Tony Gloeggler is a life-long resident of New York City and has managed group homes for the mentally challenged in Brooklyn for over 35 years. His work has appeared in Rattle, Poet Lore, Chiron Review, New Ohio Review, Spillway, Nerve Cowboy and Juked. His full length books include One Wish Left (Pavement Saw Press 2002), The Last Lie and Until The Last Light Leaves (NYQ Books 2015). My next book will be published by NYQ Books in 2019