Monday nights, I bowl.
             The rich hate bowling
the way I hate golf, all that green

space wasted, the arrogance
             of white balls sailing
through the air like God himself

only to disappear down a hole
             when you need him most.
When my father-in-law asked me

to bowl, I knew that, if he didn’t love me,
             he at least liked me enough
to let me join his team. Bowling

to me is like poetry:
             you mostly compete
against yourself, and

there’s no defense, only
             offense, the white pins
smashed, the boxes marked with slashes

and Xs going on for a while
             and then not. I am an awful
bowler but have an honesty

that elicits from the team
             a kind of forgiveness,
a hope that I will get better, and for that

I am grateful to all supplicants
             at the foul line.
These men don’t know about my poems

or how I am giving up,
             how I have come
to know so little

about the things I love. You can’t
             go on pretending the dogwood
petals fallen on the lawn

are letters from God. You can’t
             stop a war with poems, or revise
your life in meaningful ways.

Not even the attempt matters,
             as I once believed. No news
in poetry, Williams wrote, yet men die

“for lack of what is found
             there,” but even with
poetry, men go on dying.

Jane Hirschfield
             suggested the only good poetry
is that which catches something

as large as your life and death.
             If so, then there is no good poetry.
Men strap on bombs, and men

with no hope for a job
             and no money even for
a night of bowling sign away their lives,

and I stand on the lanes
             and watch my ball roll
and love most these men

who do not believe
             that poetry matters,
and woe to you, you poor

bastards who do.