The pin wobbled in a manner which would tantalize another man,
But he knew, surely as he knew his own name,
Knew in the very maw of his soul,
That it would remain implacably upright.
He was right, of course, the seven-pin standing erect as a toy soldier
In complete defiance of tenets of physics and divine mercy.
He’d been down this road before, more times than he’d care to remember:
Some occasions of his own making, short-arming the last ball,
Having it hit the head pin too flush,
Or going Brooklyn and leaving the ten unscathed,
But equally often seemingly the victim of random fate or its like,
Where he’d the pocket just so, with all the action you’d need or could muster,
Yet somehow the pins would bounce off the wall in patterns
Inexplicable via the laws of physics, the work of gremlins or voodoo,
Perhaps the vexatious ghost of some manual pin-setter of long ago.
He’d put together eleven straight strikes on every lane in the house
A half-dozen times at the very least,
Some nights when the boards were as giving as a rich and doting grandmother,
Other times in sport conditions where no one else even sniffed two hundred
(On one such unfulfilling evening, he’d scored a perfect game o
On the quarter-eating ancient shuffle-alley game
Tucked into a corner of the bar, celebrating, in a manner of speaking,
By taking chunky, sad-faced Penny Marie from the payroll office
Up against a wall in the dimly-lit alley behind the building.)
After enduring the usual consolation and confabulation,
He left the alley, walking up the hill to the old two-story on Fifth St.
Which he shared with his mother and other memories,
Though the house bore little trace of his existence, present or otherwise
(His mother had, just once, put a few of his trophies and plaques
Out on display on the mantelpiece in the parlor;
He’d insisted that she take them down forthwith.
Buncha goddamn plastic and stamped tin, he’d snapped,
Don’t mean a goddamn thing to no goddamn body.)
He’d nodded to her on his way through to his room
(She still, out of force of habit, still waited up for him,
Part simple inertia, part hopeful belief in the talismanic nature of the maternal)
Grunting Y’know, one of those nights in reply to her inquiry
As to how well or otherwise the evening went.
He’d undergone the usual bedtime ministrations
(An indifferent shit, the near-frenzied tooth brushing
Which failed to remove the bad taste which invaded his mouth
Courtesy of bad bar pizza and Rolling Rock)
Before another evening of fitful dreams
Consisting of hazy yet glorious episodes
Which never seemed to reach fruition before the advent
Of an unwelcome and vaguely malevolent sunrise.