The Eleventh Bowling Pin
I did not realize it was already too late, this is a club you’re in
or you’re not. I did not realize I had invented the club myself
& the main requirement is that you must not be me.
—Amorak Huey, “Fred Flintstone & George Jetson”
Here’s to the discards & remnants, the unnecessary add-ons:
the screws & washers left over when assembly is complete,
the wheat & sugar dust at the bottom of the bag in a cereal box,
copper rivets in spots where jeans no longer fall apart,
gold link removed to make the watch band fit,
extra button riding on your shirttails for years on end,
the last guy on the NBA bench, warmups fused to his uniform.
The list goes needlessly on. The world is littered
with inessential features, cenotes & crests & salt flats & red sands,
& full of abandoned people. & one suspects that maybe
we’re orbiting a reject star on an impractical rock,
but what, if not delight, should we endure in our hearts
as we hurl through black void & dust? It’s not difficult
to invent the myth of your own life & see yourself
outside it, uncontrolling, to imagine that like a haunt,
the seat of the soul rests its butt outside the sack
of bones & blood. To invent a club & then exclude you.
Misery at eye level seems calibrated to the gaze,
but the surface it rests on is beveled, uneven.
A still breeze could blow it over. That cenote’s full of cool water,
that crest overlooks verdant valley below, those salt flats
& red sands from above are a staggering abstract work
fit to hang in any exhibit. & so today I celebrate
the leftovers & refuse & overstock & junk & excess
& dross & dregs & scraps & scum, packing peanuts,
the gum stuck to desk bottoms & shoes, drawers full of cords
& wires & clips & pennies & pens. I’ve been all of them.
I’ve waited my turn to be useful & loved, to finally feel
I had entered the club, to be set at the end of the lane
& await the rush of the ball sent to knock me down.
ROSS WHITE is the director of Bull City Press, an independent publisher of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. He is the author of Charm Offensive, winner of the 2019 Sexton Prize, and three chapbooks: How We Came upon the Colony, The Polite Society, and Valley of Want. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The American Poetry Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, Poetry Daily, Tin House, and The Southern Review, among others. He teaches creative writing and grammar at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Follow him on Twitter: @rosswhite.