Bowling Alley

There were six lanes
and a bar next door.

We worked two lanes
at a time. "Jumping"

it was called. Two
maybe three leagues

a night @ 13 cents a line
plus tips. It added up.

It was even kind of fun--
like being on a ship

and dodging broadsides
from the enemy. Look

lively lads! Right on.
You had to pay attention.

Otherwise a freak ricochet
could knock your teeth out.

And it was hot back there
concussive, sweat-slippery

a place I'd dream about
for years--an atmosphere

whistling with bombs
as I remember it

grapeshot, cannonballs
all the furious shrapnel

transposed and manifest
of beleaguered adolescence ...

No wonder we got tired.
There was so much smoke

by the end of the night
we could hardly breathe--

we needed air back there
stars in the open hatchway

an icy, offshore gale
crashing on the gun deck ...

until BANG we were done
the last pin racked

and we found ourselves
taking a leak in fact

out beside the Dumpster
in the literal alley

where it sometimes snowed.
One of us, I remember

had a tattoo. One of us
was missing some teeth.

:: Michael Van Walleghen, Blue Tango (Illinois 1989)

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