After my father’s funeral mass,
friends and family gather
on the church steps to hug and cry,
complain about the priest’s
African accent and how he knew
nothing about my father’s life.
They give directions to the gravesite,
to our house, while I walk around
to the schoolyard. St Ann’s school
has been closed for years
and the schoolyard seemed
so much bigger when I was twelve
and it was filled with hundreds of kids.
Girls in long lines rocking back and forth,
trying to find the right rhythm for jump rope,
skirts flying as they sprinted, leapt, floated
while I hoped to catch a hint of their panties
for a second or two. Circles of boys flipping,
scaling baseball cards against the wall.
I was always a first round draft pick
for punch ball, the only fifth grader
who could send a Pennsie Pinkie flying
over the roof. Down by the lunchroom rail,
Regina Rowland broke my heart
for the first time and showed me everything
wouldn’t turn out the way I wanted
when she said that Tommy Schmidt
had already invited her to Rye Beach
and she didn’t know how to tell him no.
Nuns in black habits took turns patrolling
the grounds like sentries, black beads
clicking, bouncing as they rushed to break up
a fight. The bell rang at 8:45 and everyone
froze until one of the sisters pinched her clicker
and we silently lined up in size place by class.
I walk back to the church, whisper something
to my youngest brother that makes him nod.
I put my arm around my mother, lead her
to the limousine, open the door for her.
I watch the altar boy kick the door stop,
pull the church door shut and see my father
on one knee telling me to smile, stand up
straight as he focused his Kodak camera
that muggy day in May when I made
Confirmation, became a man like him.
Tears fall out of my eyes and my sister
says it’s about time I did some crying.
Originally published in Cultural Weekly.
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 most recent book, What Kind Of Man, was published by NYQ Books 6/20