My father taught me how to level
a pool cue across the bridge of my hand
on the table. He’d take me
to the kinds of bars open in daytime,
lit by neon signs that spell the names of beer franchises
over the green felt tables.
I would pour my own tall glass
from the tea pitcher on the wait table
while he placed the balls in their rack –
yellow ‘1’ at the head, black ‘8’ in the center,
stripe-solid-stripe in a pattern I can still see floating
inside the grimy white plastic triangle.
When he finished, he would knock
the three corners with the cue ball;
he said it kept them all together.
I learned to recognize the feel of testing
a shot before carrying through, swinging
even, as if my arm was a pendulum; the sound
a pool cue makes against the ball when it needs
chalk; and the number of scratches
against the lock his key would make
before I could offer to fit it in, turn the knob.
My family have always really enjoyed playing pool – it’s just something we do. When I was younger my parents used to go to tournaments instead of more traditional date-nights, and I think they enjoyed it. Disclaimer that this isn’t about my dad; it’s just scraps of memories learning to play, and characters who might have been.