After Gwendolyn Brook’s ‘We Real Cool’.

The Pool Players.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

(Gwendolyn Brooks)

The 9-5 Workers.

We mere fools. We
Don’t break rules. We

Over the eight. We
Can’t stand straight. We

Up to chin. We
Where we been. We

Curse the moon. We
Stay till noon.

(Shravani Sawant)


After Gwendolyn Brook’s ‘We real cool’. The original is supposed to describe a group of teenagers hanging out outside of a pool hall. It imagines these teenagers as rebels who proudly defy convention and authority—and who will likely pay for their behavior with their lives. It’s quite a classic, and I’ve re-imagined it to have the teenagers all grown up in today’s world, who after and despite all their youthful rebellion, end up working typical 9-5 jobs. They spend their lives fearing the law, cursing their fate, drinking away their frustration, but ultimately remain stuck in the same place because they refuse to do anything about it, in stark contrast their younger selves.

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