I never liked the sound
of my voice, eyes turned
my way. Maybe a therapist
would assure me I was scarred
by too many stares the year
and a half I clanked across
rooms wearing an iron brace
on one leg, an ahead-of-its-time,
Goth-style boot on the other foot.
As nuns strutted up, down rows
of students searching for answers
I always knew but stuttered
to say, their stern voices demanding
me to speak louder, sit straight,
enunciate. On St. Ann’s stage
for the regional spelling bee
after a worried night, stomach
still turning, breakfast already
thrown up, flushed down the toilet,
my thoughts drifted outside,
beyond the auditorium windows
to the schoolyard sounds of balls
drumming black top, slapping
backboards. I missed my first word,
spelled urgent which mom later said
was urchin. Even after the moderator
put it in a sentence filled with ships
and storms, the frantic buzzing
in my brain never stopped. Walking
quickly across the stage, sweaty,
embarrassed. Twenty years later,
with flattery, encouragement
from a sexy editor, I agreed to be
a featured reader for the latest
issue of a long gone magazine.
I walked to the mic with a bit
of Mickey Mantle limp, took out
my notebook, mumbled thanks,
read too fast and too low. Pages
trembled, words blurred, letters
bled together as I read four poems
to merciful applause, rushed off
to a back row seat and tried
to convince myself that my words
deserved to be spoken, heard.

Tony Gloeggler is a life-long resident of NYC and managed group homes for the mentally challenged for 40 years. 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.