Tony Gloeggler

What Kind Of Man

The sliding wheels of carts
and the shuffling feet
of nurses coming down
the hall begin to open
my eyes. The light is still
shocking when they enter
my room. I turn away, bury
my eyes into the pillow
and listen to them talk
to the new patient
behind the drawn curtain.
When they ask about bathing,
he answers in a too loud voice,
“Some things a man needs to do
for himself.” I’m next and I know
the nurse will have to help me
do everything and I start to think
how I got here. Just five years ago
I was walking from the subway
to my apartment, cutting through
the park on spring days, stopping
at the basketball court, maybe
loosening my tie, letting my shirt
flap out of its pants as I flew
down court, hung in the air
and double clutched my way
to the basket. After months
of accelerated kidney disease,
I started to hail cabs home,
slowly struggle my way
out the car door with a cane
to help me limp up the pathway,
wait for an elevator to carry me
up to 2B. When the nurse opens
my curtain, I tell him I feel a bit
better, but still weak. Breakfast
will soon be here and hopefully
my stomach can keep some of it
down. When he asks about bathing,
I tell him I’m all his and he goes
to get the basin and cloths. Not long
ago, I’d feel embarrassed showing
my private parts to anyone, worried
about size and how they would react
to being touched. After two operations,
I am over all that. Mostly, I am stuck
wondering what kind of man
I can still be? This morning,
I’m the kind of man who lets
a male nurse strip my clothes
to a pile on the floor, wash
my front and back, stand me up
and let me hold his shoulder
as he cups my balls, gently
scrubs them clean while I try
not to inhale the tuna fish
on wheat he ate during
his late-night lunch break.
The kind of man who stares
at the wall and whispers
thank you into his ear.

Originally published in New Ohio Review


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, Crab Creek Review and Raleigh Review. 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.