I didn’t cancel this weekend’s
Jesse visit due to the forecast
warning of steady rain mixed
with snow, long wet walks
from his new house to bus
stops, the places we always
go. It was the blustery gusts
up to 40, 50 miles per hour
predicted for Sunday morning,
the threat my flight could be
cancelled and I would miss
Springsteen’s Sunday night
concert in Brooklyn. A good
father would be standing
out front looking for Uber
early Friday morning, folding
my coat in the overhead bin,
latching the seat belt tight
as the flight attendants mime
emergency procedures like
bored cartoon characters.

I remind myself that I only wish
I was Jesse’s father and maybe
because he’s autistic, lives so far
away, I try too hard to make up
for things he may, may not miss.
His mom will erase my name
from the schedule, explain,
lie, that the plane is broken
or Tony’s sick, blame the rain,
point to my name already slotted
for 3 days the end of April, show
his world will quickly fall back
into place. I tell myself Nick
will come in, take him cross
country skiing or to his favorite
water park instead, much more
fun than city bus rides, Mister
Mike’s Pizza, weekend Tony Time.

He’ll never understand what
music means to me, this thing
about Springsteen, how the first
4 albums were Bible to me,
his shows religious celebrations
exorcizing that lost, desperate,
shrinking feeling that surrounded
me in my 20s and now a different
dread creeping nearer, time grinding
on, moving me closer to death.

I wish Jesse remembered Brooklyn,
20 tears ago, times his mother
worked late. I’d put on Badlands,
The Promised Land, Thunder Road,
Rosalita, louder than she ever
allowed and I’d lift him above
my head, bounce him on his bed
while he laughed uncontrollably.
For one might, no only 3 or so
hours, I wish Jesse was normal,
at ease with the flashing lights,
the crowds, excited by the music,
up on his feet, bumping shoulders
with me, dancing and clapping,
howling along to every blessed song.

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.