“Ode to John Hinkles, Junior and Senior” by Patty Seyburn

Patty Seyburn


A man filled the thumb hole of his favorite
bowling ball with his father’s ashes,
then bowled a perfect game.

How do you mourn
and celebrate your dead?

For those who have never sent a resin ball
down a wooden lane, 300 is the magic
number, and is hard to achieve.

Remember your own father in his burnt
orange, polyester, monogrammed shirt?

You must bowl 10 perfect frames, knock
down every pin. Some of them will submit
gracefully, tipping,

How the ball curled leaving his palm,
one leg planted, the other slanted behind.

while others will force the ball to
confront them and fly across space,
propelled by blunt force.

This was before his heart attack, when
the doctor told him: no more bowling.

Truth is, Junior had performed a perfect game
before. His two-hand technique involves
only two fingers in the ball,

Already, have you lost touch
with a couple of people you used to be?

leaving room for ashes in the thumb.
He bowled the game at Landmark Lanes
in his hometown, Peoria.

Was it Arnold Palmer who said, “the more
I practice, the luckier I get?”

His father had never bowled a perfect
game. “Until now,”
said Junior.

from Poets Respond
April 27, 2021


Patty Seyburn: “This morning, I read an article about a man who filled one of his bowling ball’s holes with his father’s ashes, and then bowled a perfect game. It’s not as miraculous as it sounds—junior was a pro-bowler—but this perfect game was obviously special. My father bowled, until his doctor told him to stop, due to his heart. This was around 1975. My father worked a great deal (he was a draftsman for Ford Motor Company in the cars and windows division) and had few hobbies, but he did enjoy bowling. I could not help but think of my father when I read this story. I am a mediocre bowler, at best.” (web)

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