on the page magazine

issue no. 1, winter 2000–2001
outsiders & community


Something to Do with All Night Classical Bowling

by Emily Koehn

                  Gathering the pins late at night, a man
at the alley dusts them once a month,
say the second Tuesday, wondering why
all the knocking doesn't knock

the dirt off. The rag circles
on the white, white whiter

and the dirt collecting from all those balls, glittery red or sleek
green, pine green even. Color is

speed. Red dress, orange dress, ruby, brown,
mahogany slippers. She wears a bathrobe to bed.
                                 My Uncle's
a champion bowler on TV. He wears a shirt
you can see through. He and the other bowlers lift
                                 their arms, turn wrists, and sweat stains, then points
given, added to the score.


in a play, which way to go, which steps
did the actress run down and scream He's taken my baby?

The people in the audience whispered it was about a loss
of innocence. The cement steps, foot and forward,
slowing down, one
at a time,
              but was there really a baby?
Nothing else mentioned.
                                      Knowing someone

and yet not—those small hidden details:
                                                            another child, marriage, which
toothpaste do you like, when do you change
your toothbrush, a longstanding bill never spoken about. If there's silence,
what's not said resists
             At night, in the walls:
a rat or hammering or
someone's fingers.

He told her do not play games with me
                                         and she thought monopoly, scrabble, boards
unending in that cabinet at home, cards, dominoes....

Would you like to stay the night? he said.
                                                              To create
conversation we need triggers: dice, weather,
your hair looks so good today.
                                                 To talk
about what we really want to say.
                                                    He said when people talk
about weather it's because we can't talk about God,
about spirituality, what we believe anymore.
                                                              Do we look
at the sky and see clouds or do we think that they really look like
potato pancakes and that's ok?
                                                 I could lie on grass and look, do this
and never notice frog coasters on tables
or the salt and pepper shakers in the shape
of hands.
It's not relevant where I got them, the antique store. Just the clasp,

salt and pepper,
                          the dream of union.

And why salt and pepper? Why not cumin,
                                                     coriander, cayenne, endorphin highs
which could help you knock down
that last single pin, solo.

First, it's all about focus
                                    and then the knock in less than a second
is beauty. The effect

of one pin touching the other.

How we could sit all night
                                and talk about the woman behind the shoe counter
who was singing to the music, shelling
out shoes,
                size 8 or 8 and a half, singing
even during the interludes.

Emily Koehn currently lives in Princeton, New Jersey, and teaches writing at Rutgers University. She has previously been published in Malahat Review and Seneca Review. She likes cats and bric-a-brac.

poet's note
These two selections are from a longer piece that came out of many long, late night bowling ventures in Lafayette, Indiana. I've always thought bowling alleys were curious places—how we all interact in "the alley"—what we say, how we communicate, how we angle that ball. Plus, who doesn't love "The Big Lebowski"?

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