An Ode To Loss

Trying to get in better, sixty-eight-
year-old shape to maybe live longer,
I just finished my every other day laps
up, down, around, the basketball
court. Breathing hard, stretching
before I walk, jog the ten blocks home,
I watch a guy slip through the hole
in the fence, start dribbling, shooting
mid-range jumpers. My tongue flops
out like a hungry dog’s, tasting
the crisp fall air, licking the sweat
above my lips, my fingertips almost
feeling the worn treads of the ball.
Back in the day, I’d be ready to fetch
the next rebound. Instead, I just watch:
hardly any left hand, a quick move
to bring the ball in front of his face
for a shot, but only after he takes
a half-step back, sets his feet. Every
time. Too slow, too mechanical,
no flow. I got this guy, he’s all mine.
Next. I haven’t touched a ball in too
many years. Maybe after a month,
I’ll reward myself, bring along a ball.
I picture running full court, running
noon until too dark to see, whisper,
no chant, names of guys I spent nearly
every day with, how they disappeared,
moved to out of state universities,
the marines, re-hab, wives, kids, jobs
they hate, fucking golf and nothing’s
ever been that easy, that good, since.

I fit headphones on, head home.
My iPod finds Linda Ronstadt,
“When Will I Be Loved”. Forget Phil
and Don Everly. My lips, a silent
choir, mouth along the chorus
until I recall a recent interview:
Linda, sitting on a couch talking
cerebral palsy, how she no longer
can hold notes. Occasionally.
she sings at family gatherings,
traditional Mexican songs.
She rarely misses the stage,
a full house, the travelling
show to show. She still talks
to Emmylou, Dolly, but sometimes
she hears a new song, dreams
of singing it, imagining the things
she could do with it and I think
about my mom: Bedridden, legally
blind, the nine months before
she died. Someone, sometimes me,
doing everything for her, spoon
feeding her, changing her position,
cleaning places, applying powder,
cremes to where she said no son
should ever see, much less touch,
telling me she loved me more
times than I could count each day.

Tony Gloeggler is a life-long resident of NYC and managed group homes for the mentally challenged for over 40 years. His work has appeared in Rattle, New Ohio Review, Vox Populi. His most recent book, What Kind of Man, with NYQ Books was a finalist for the 2021 Paterson Poetry Prize and long listed for Jacar Press’ Julie Suk Award.