About Time

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