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.
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.
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
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.
conversation we need triggers: dice, weather,
your hair looks so good today.
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
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
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.
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"?