A GOOD BAD DAY
John walks slowly up the stairs
to my office every day. Between
four and four-thirty, after the bus
brings him home from day program
and after he uses the bathroom,
he says, “Oh, hello, Tony,” as if
he’s surprised to find me
sitting at my desk. He says
he had a good day, stands
by a chair, and after six years
of living at the residence,
his home, he still hesitates,
wonders if he needs permission
to sit down. I don’t give it,
wait until he sits on his own.
He tells me if he read or painted,
exercised or sang today and I ask
questions as if I was his mother.
Maybe he went to a park, a store,
the library. All along he wears
this pleasant, half smiling,
perfectly balanced, zen-like gaze
across his Fred Flintstone face
and I don’t know if I’m stressed
or bored, mean, or just a smart-ass
acting like we are friends;
but when he asks me about my day
sometimes I tell him the truth.
Uselessly endless meetings, piles
of paper work, asshole administrators.
Not enough sleep. Girlfriend trouble.
Yesterday, I told him that a woman
I loved is getting married on a boat
in September and I wished
I owned a torpedo. He didn’t say
anything, just sat there smiling
and I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help it
I had to ask him if he ever
had a bad day. When he said no,
none that he could remember,
I said are you sure. He said
I don’t think so and looked like
he was thinking hard. I leaned
forward, said that I felt very sad
when my father died and I wondered
how he felt when his mom and dad
passed away. John jutted out his chin,
looked beyond me and said yeah
that was a bad day. When I asked
if he missed them, he chewed
on his lips, said sometimes,
and I said I know what you mean.
(This poem first appeared in Rattle)
About Tony Gloeggler: I am a life-long resident of New York City and have managed group homes for the mentally challenged for over 35 years. My work has appeared in Columbia Poetry Review, Rattle, The Examined Life Journal, Raleigh Review, New Ohio Review, Stirring and The NY Times. My full length books include One Wish Left (Pavement Saw Press 2002) and Until The Last Light Leaves (NYQ Books 2015) which focused on my job and the autistic son of a former girlfriend. My next book, What Kind Of Man, will be published by NYQ Books in 2019.
More By Tony Gloeggler
“Visitor’s Day at the Group Home”
Image Credit: Paul Klee “Senecio” (1922) Public Domain