national anthology of the best undergraduate writing 2014

Eight-Ball

Liz Purvis  • 
Elon University

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 faded 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,

a stripe-solid-stripe pattern snug

inside the grimy white triangle.

When he finished, he would knock

its three corners with the cue ball,

say 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.