Earl Strickland I dislike you quite a lot
and it’s not because you are a Gemini.You skulk up to the table like a Gemini,
like a little god of diligence, fury,and full-body English nine-ball breaks
but it’s not really even that.It’s not the wrap-around sports sunglasses
or the pernickety quiver of break and game cues,and hey, a belly is not unbecoming
for certain gentlemen of a certain age.It’s not the bristled trapezium
of your unmodish blond moustache,it’s not the cyan Lycra billiard glove,
chichi in the extreme, and less stillthat weighted arm band fixed around your bicep
as an amulet or periapt. Whatever.Earl, yours is a game for one played by two:
one of whom is you and the other, you.From those regional pool halls eye-watering
with smoke, a bad moon often on the rise,to the Riviera Hotel and Casino, Nevada
and the 8-ball Open sponsored by Camel—you play in a long off-beat.
A gold tooth rattles down a drainpipe.Earl Strickland I dislike you quite a lot
and not because you shellacked Stephen Hendry.It’s not the cues of cocobolo or rosewood
or who knows, the drawn and dressed neck and spine of a whooper swanwrapped with stacked leather or Irish linen,
or the cotton you picked for pool moneyon the farm in Roseboro, North Carolina;
and its tobacco, and its fat striped watermelonsrolling in the back of a pick-up truck
at angles you could, as a child, calculate.Earl Strickland I dislike you quite a lot
for the junk of your regalia and your sneer.Earl Strickland I dislike you quite a lot
for the beauty you achieve when beautyis never your intention.
Earl Strickland, make like Pangaea and break.Make like some ancient stage magician
who has cinched the trick so many timeshe has finally forgotten how and when
the sleight of hand happens—for whom it is a mystery the moment
a white handkerchief turns into a dove.
Copyright © 2018 by Stephen Sexton
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Stephen Sexton lives in Belfast where he teaches at the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. His poems have appeared in Granta, Poetry London, Best British Poetry 2015, and elsewhere. His pamphlet Oils (Emma, 2014) was the Poetry Book Society’s Winter Pamphlet Choice, and he won both the 2016 National Poetry Competition and the 2018 Eric Gregory Award. A first book will be published by Penguin in 2019.
Copper Nickel—the national literary journal housed at the University of Colorado Denver—was founded by poet Jake Adam York in 2002. When York died in 2012, the journal went on hiatus until its re-launch in 2014.
Work published in Copper Nickel has appeared in the Best American Poetry, Best American Short Stories, and Pushcart Prize anthologies, and contributors to Copper Nickel have received numerous honors for their work.