for John Dorsey

Would we play against other poets?

The New York School in their mismatched jackets,
violenty sending the ball away.
Short, choppy movements
in any direction they feel like.

Or a dapper group of modernists
who never take their turn.
They’re too busy writing anthems
about the polished floors
about the sine wave skyline of the pins,
how coquina rock and strip mall architecture
gives them hope.

Or other kinds of writers?
The tough-guy pulp fiends
who shine their bowling balls with ink ribbons.
Or worse, Bret Easton Ellis
who spends the night not bowling at all.
Refusing to pay the price for the shoe rental.
Just tells us we’re all doing it wrong.
He’d teach us the right way,
but there are simply too many rules
for our Miller High Life minds.

But we know who it would really be.
And they would win.

A patchwork of men with custom bags.
“Hank” embroidered in the center.
They don’t come for the cheese fries and beer,
but for the taste of competition.
Majored in marketing and now look at the bowling alley
and see only its output potential,
the ratio of pitchers being served
to waitresses being paid to peddle them.
And a few others who are surprised to see
that poets can lift bowling balls at all.
They thought books were for the weak.
The only legs they have to stand on.

Timothy Tarkelly’s work has appeared in Back Patio Press, Tiny Essays, From the Depths, Peculiars Magazine, and others. He has two poetry collections published by Spartan Press: Luckhound (2020) and Gently in Manner, Strongly in Deed: Poems on Eisenhower (2019). When he’s not writing, he teaches in Southeast Kansas.

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