The Old NZ [poem] by Gahl Liberzon

As far as two amateur pool players went we

weren’t half bad. Cue tips always busted, bodies real
warped from the younger kids trying to play cool

who swung them like swords or leaned on them like canes. Still, we
learned the rudiments of English: when the line was clear, we’d shoot left
of center and the cue ball would bank just short of pocket, school

the noobs where they stood jawing. Ben and me, we
played every weekend during the concerts, lurked
in the shadows like we were things that went bump late

at night. It was almost true; even though we
both started at CHS, Ben got expelled for his first strike
on the boy who tried to box him out, got ass whooped, then went straight

for the gun and pistol whipped him. We used to beatbox back then too: we

would post up on the first floor ledge, cypher for blazehead emcees or sing
Muddy Waters and freestyle blues while Ben noodled riffs smooth as sin

on an open G-tuned steel body with a socket slide. I felt like we
were two of a kind, even though anyone could see I was too thin
for golden gloves, too butterfingered for guitar, too spastic for the gin

and kool-aid afterparties where guys like Ben got laid. Still, we
had in common a certain faith in what the notes could put in us, the same jazz
that made us practice trick shots every saturday night from august to june,

as if with enough stocked up cool, we could handle any heavy. We
were untested—hadn’t watched a single of our friends die
yet. No matter. We’d get cured of that freshness soon.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This poem is a Golden Shovel, a poetic form named after the first poem of its kind by Terrance Hayes, in which the writer embeds in the end of each line one of the words from “We Real Cool,” the famous poem by Gwendolyn Brooks.]

Image by Laurie Avocado

Gahl Liberzon is a writer and educator who lives in Chicago, IL. His debut collection, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, Bodies, was published by Redbeard Press in 2012. He was once fired for excessive candor while answering the question: “How can a lack of candor cause problems in the workplace.”