I wake to the sound of a shovel

scraping the ground below my window

and the thought that first touches

my mind is snow: all night, thick white,

covering the sidewalks, the streets,

and one person digging a path from here

to there. But it’s July. The city’s sweltering

and Washington Heights is still without

power. I hear a baby crying across

the courtyard and all I can think about

is the night I met my girlfriend outside

the office she worked part time as a clerk.

She kissed and held me, had to tell me twice

that Thurman Munson had died in a plane crash

before I started to believe her. It was, I think,

a Thursday. We were going to Central Park

to hear John Sebastian sing Lovin’ Spoonful

songs. After the show she told me she made

a clinic appointment for Monday, my one day  

off. She wasn’t ready to be a mother. Maybe

Someday, she said. I was young and dumb

and in love, and I would have done anything

that girl wanted; cut my hair, wore a pin striped suit

and worked on Wall Street. I would have married her,

moved to Montreal. But I was happier to stay

boyfriend and girlfriend, sit in the waiting room

and turn pages in magazines while the doctor sucked

and scraped her insides clean. Our daughter

or son would be grown by now. We might have tried

harder to stay together, found some way to make

each other happy, or hurt each other even deeper.

Instead, it’s six-thirty, Saturday morning and I know

I’ll never get back to sleep. I walk to the window,

find a cat curled on the fire escape, opening her mouth

and crying like a baby. I lean out, try to reach her. 

But she’s too far away. I want to rub the fur under

her neck, fill a bowl with milk. I want to grab her

by the throat,  drop her four stories, see if she lands

on her feet. I want to know what it will take to stop

that god damn shovel from scraping the ground again.


Originally published in The Ledge

Tony Gloeggler is a life-long resident of New York City and managed group homes for the mentally challenged in Brooklyn for 40. years. He’s retired now pretending he’s happy being older and wiser. His work has appeared in Rattle, Chiron Review, New Ohio Review, Nerve Cowboy, and Crab Creek Review. His most recent book, What Kind Of Man published by NYQ Books and a finalist for the 2020 Paterson Poetry Prize.