Tony Gloeggler

Disability Pride Parade

Standing in the check-out line,
a basket half-filled with bottles 
of on-sale, Pure Leaf ice-tea, 
and cans of Busch’s baked beans
hanging from my arm, I’m tempted
to let a young mother, her great ass
and cranky, not so cute, crying kid
move ahead when my arm starts
shaking, spazzing like a seizure
until I lean it against my bent knee,
switch hands carefully, afraid
to lift my eyes, discover someone
staring and I’m five years old
again, refusing to wear Bermuda
shorts, begging mom to buy only
long pants, long enough to hide
my iron brace and Herman Munster
boot. I moved around slowly, trying
not to make a sound, draw any kind
of attention. Years later my work
supervisor announced at a monthly
meeting she decided to send the higher
functioning guys from all group homes
into Manhattan to parade down 5th
Avenue, celebrate Disability Month
and me explaining in our closed door
meeting I didn’t think it was a good idea,
it sounds like Jerry Lewis, his telethon
making everyone look particularly
pathetic. I tell her about my childhood,
how being disabled is nothing to throw
a party for. Scrunching her face, she said
if my parents supported me, I’d be better
adjusted. I took a quick breath, told her
it wasn’t her business, but my mom
and dad taught me ways to make it
through day to day and never make
a big deal about it, never let anyone
see me as crippled, never get down
on my knees, hand out, simply live
my life, proud of how I carry myself.

TONY GLOEGGLER is a life-long resident of NYC and managed group homes for the mentally challenged for over 40 years. Poems have been published in Rattle, New Ohio Review, Vox Populi, Gargoyle. His most recent book, What Kind Of Man with NYQ Books, was a finalist for the 2021 Paterson Poetry Prize and Here on Earth will be published by NYQ Books in 2024.

Read more by Tony Gloeggler

Poem in B O D Y
Poem in Rattle
Poem in Vox Populi
Poem in NYQ