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 beer signs hanging
over the green felt.
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.
When he finished, he would knock
its three corners with the cue ball;
he said it kept them all together.
I learned to recognize the clack
a pool cue makes against the ball when it needs
chalk; the feel of testing
a shot before swinging even, my arm
a pendulum; and the number of scratches
against the lock his key would make
before I could offer to fit it in, turn the knob.