Industrial League Bowling

Treva's husband throws a strike
every time he's up. She quit school
at fourteen, but Treva does the numbers
like a mathematician: ten plus ten plus
ten plus ten to three hundred at the last frame.
She works first shift sewing machine

at Stedman's. He sands for Dixie Furniture,
but Dixie couldn't make a team, so he's on
with Stedman's by marriage, the ringer.
Their two kids come to Tuesday league night.
They'll know the ball like their own bones
long before they start at the mill.

When Treva's up, she wipes hands on her skirt,
tugs her blue-striped bowling shirt
--the company logo printed on the back--
vees petite fingers in her six-pounder,
and throws. Seven down. Three more for a spare.
Tonight Klopman's eases ahead after the first game.

Steadman's a strong second. Bossong's best
was called in early for a machine repair,
and they're a weak third without him.
Then it's Harrelson Rubber, Acme-McCrary,
Pinehurst, in that order. When your day
is the up-down-up-down arm of a needle

in cloth, a twenty minute lunch,
when you're bad to slip stitches or tangle thread,
and your boss lives in the white house
so big your cousins drive to town just to see it,
you own the ball or you die. This
will save you: the necessary roar of the roll

down the alley, wild scatter of the hit,
a boy setting pins and sending balls
back to hands that can spin, slide, knuckle, toss,
that can make split pins fall, hands
with grease in their creases, grease under nails,
sewer's hands with thread burns scarred into palms.

:: Barbara Presnell, Piece Work (Cleveland State, 2007)

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