Lee Nye played the sticks last night,
Brought his musical pool cues he’d designed himself
To demonstrate on my basement table. His bones,
As he called them, were works of art, and as you might guess,
The son-of-a-bitch could play. Like a jazz musician,
He’d roll them on the felt, wobble thumping the table,
His ID bracelet jangling on a skinny, tanned wrist,
Leathery foosball fingers coaxing notes
From his kit, delicately lifting each stick.
One was simply warped, the tip curved in a long arc,
But the other was handcrafted, a voodoo wand,
an artful snooker/tambourine/Maraca bass,
Its butt skewed at an angle of fifteen
Degrees to get that Whump when he’d roll
His totem pole on the slate. Halfway up the shaft
It was bracketed with rollers and beads
Pinned to swiveling rings. A latticed cylinder
Of caged marbles, six drilled and tethered dice
Adorned the tip to dance beneath two tiny cymbals.
He maneuvered his bones mostly with one hand,
Not that he had to—it was just his style.
So he played, those gloriously warm pool hall tones:
Balls clicking, knocking, slamming and dropping
Into pockets, smacked and thudding bank shots,
Occasional cue balls launched and bouncing the floor,
Clattering sticks, clinking glass, all woven under a cloud
Of cigarette smoke, the ganked scratch and curse,
The squeak of shooters re-chalking their cues
Then tapping tips against rails, tables and stools—
Butts thumping the floor before calling a run—
Nye conjured up all this fun in a sweet percussive song,
His bushy brow relaxing was the coda-de-creme,
And I applauded, hailed him the inventor of an art form.
He laughed, bowed. You could tell he was proud
And loved the praise, loved playing for me, but tough-
Brusquely insecure, he waved it off, reminding me
Of Clark Gable, arms crossed, leaning against the table,
A cocky grin, his cap tipped back like a leading man,
A guy who could’ve been in The Hustler,
Could’ve rattled Fast Eddie or racked up Fats.
Believe me, you would’ve loved Lee Nye’s table act—
Dreamy beat-jazz genius of the cue stick melody.