Driven by the rhythms of everyday language and filled with details only a lifelong outsider registers, Tony Gloeggler's Until The Last Light Leaves sheds light on a world habitually ignored. Covering the 35 or so years the poet has worked in group homes for the developmentally disabled and his relationship with his ex-girlfriend's autistic son, you'll get to know the cousin whose name hasn't been mentioned since he was institutionalized three years ago, the girl down the block who made strange sounds and banged her head on her front porch as you played stickball in the street, the kids on the special bus with their helmets and ill-fitting clothes you taunted with your words, the pity of the woman who stops you on the street and god blesses you because you do work only a saint could possibly do, the father finding out his son has down’s syndrome, and the mother you stared at when she couldn't control her kicking and screaming daughter as you stood in the supermarket line waiting to pay for your 5 items.
This isn't about Jerry Seinfeld surmising he's a little autistic. Not the movie savant you drive to Vegas to clean out the bank with or the cute cuddly kid in some new sit-com. It's the everyday people who are going to be autistic and developmentally challenged every day of their lives and the folks who try to help them be as independent and happy as possible. It's Larry wearing that same gray sweatshirt and wanting his head shaved at least five times a day, John swearing he's never had a bad day in his life and digging corny country music and Jesse wanting another ride on the city bus and ordering chicken fingers, apple juice with ice any time he's in a restaurant.
This book goes beneath the labels. No one's special or exceptional, cursed or looking for pity. It's just individuals with different talents and shortcomings trying to make it from one day to the next with maybe a little extra help. It's the frustrations, the tedium, the care and love, the well-earned dignity, the sense of helplessness that sometimes overwhelms and the rare epiphanies. It's all about connections, commitments and bonds and realizing that we are more like each other than we’re ever comfortable to admit.
No one breaks through to the surface of the heart like Tony Gloeggler, no one translates so many levels of human with such unwavering courage, such fierce lyricism. These are the stories of a man firmly rooted in the unrelenting miracle of the changing life. He introduces us to those so many of us choose not to see, and he deftly aligns our lives, and our dreams, with theirs.
After running into Tony at the corner of 8th Avenue and Greenwich Avenue while pushing William Packard back to his apartment from Jackson Square Park, Bill turned to me and said, "Now that is a guy whose poems I remember." That was the first time I ever met Tony and now, all these years later, I understand what Bill meant: These poems are filled with such humanity that one cannot forget them.