Lessons from Rabbit


Send the ball down the return rail
(It'll roll back to the bowler.)
Step on the lever; hold it down
(Little metal posts will pop up)

Grab the pins; set them on the posts.
(The pins have holes on the bottom.)
Take your foot off of the lever.
(Though take it off kinda easy.)

It's really simple, Rabbit said.
But listen — this is important —
when you're done, get outta the way;
get your ass on the rail real quick.

Tugging on his do-rag, he grinned:
Some of those bowlers are damned mean.
They'll try to hit you just for sport
or laugh when the pins fly at you.

If you bowl when I am working,
be sure to take your time, you hear?


Yeah, I'm a pretty good bowler.
Sometimes, after the place closes,
manager lets Zeb and me play.
He sets, I bowl; I set, he bowls.

There's no bowling alley in town
except for this whites-only place.


Riding one Saturday eve'ning
— months after my pin-setting days —
I caught sight of Rabbit walking,
and flashed on our bowling pit talks.

He was laughing, talking with friends,
looking at ease on his home turf.
He was heading to a dance hall.
I slowed down, ready to say Hey.

Before I got close 'nough to wave
I saw a poster for the dance.
What I read made me triple take:
Tonight — Thirteen Screamin' Niggers!

I knew that word as a put-down
thrown by people of my color,
but there it was: an inside joke.
So I drove on, keeping outside.

This was Rabbit's world; his alone.
I knew I wouldn't be welcome.

* * *

So these things I learned from Rabbit:
Our orbits would rarely connect.
Words can divide but also join.
Watch your ass around mean people.

Harry W. Yeatts Jr.