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The structure of “We Real Cool” is very carefully controlled, and instead of drawing on an already established poetic form, it makes use of a form of Brooks’s own devising. This short and extremely compressed poem consists of just eight lines, preceded by a two-line epigraph that, like a play script, establishes the characters and the setting. The eight lines of the poem are grouped into couplets, with each couplet forming its own stanza. The poem includes eight sentences, and each sentence is made up of three one-syllable words. Except for the first sentence, all the sentences in the poem are split across two lines, with the subject (i.e., “we”) appearing at the end of the line, and the rest of the sentence appearing at the start of the following line. When seen in print, this form has a unique effect. The sentences seem to cascade down the page, like water pouring down a fountain.
Though not directly related to the content of the poem, the comparison of its visual form to the cascading of water provides a helpful image for interpreting the way the sentences of “We Real Cool” are organized. Just as water naturally obeys the force of gravity to find the path of least resistance, the speakers of the poem narrate the seemingly “natural” progression from an initial act of delinquency to death. This structure suggests that even the simplest kind of rebellion, such as skipping school, can have cascading effects. Once kids skip school and start staying up late, loitering in pool halls, they are just one step away from drinking alcohol, having sex, and eventually winding up dead. In other words, the poem follows a progression of increasingly dramatic forms of deviance. This progression suggests that even the most minor act of youthful rebellion could, if left unchecked, ultimately lead to tragedy.