Bowling Lessons

Our bowling scores ranked us near the top
of the league, though we kept penciled
accounts back then, frame by frame,
and we figured junior high math could mercifully
allow us wiggle room
to compensate for all we lacked
of training, practice, and technique.
Start with a warm-up frame, for instance,
in which a lousy split could go unrecorded
but strikes we always wrote down.
And warm-up frames happened unpredictably
at various intervals within the game, depending
on which of us rolled gutter balls
and if the rest of us agreed to look the other way.
Or what if your thumb stuck in the ball?
Not your fault, of course.  Neither
should you be penalized if you slipped
across the foul line, or lofted a wild throw
crashing down someone else’s lane.  C’mon, man,
should have been a strike in the first place . . .
so don’t mention a single pin left standing
if you’ve missed it on the spare.  Who rules
the rules, after all; who says what’s fair is fair?
And we were fairly ignorant and much surprised
at the season’s closing tournament, when scorekeepers
watched over our shoulders at every mark.
Just an off weekend for our team, we explained,
his elbow injured in a bike wreck; I had a cramp in my leg.

—Lowell Jaeger, Bigfork, MT