Three Poems by Tim Hunt

Tim-Hunt

Drugstore Malteds
There is no jailhouse in “Jailhouse
Rock”—that space where we want
to stick around and get our kicks

as if it were Route 66, Corvette
and top down instead of street
lights flickering on as you sweep

out Mr. Smith’s Piggly Wiggly,
then restock the soup shelves, Campbell’s
Tomato, Chicken & Rice, even Minestrone,

so maybe this is the jailhouse. And
maybe you are Elvis, kinda, as Shifty
Henry says Nix Nix, and you count

in your head the coin in your pocket—
burger, coke and jukebox and you sneering—
left ass cheek on the stool edge,

the bass pumping because you are cool
even if you don’t yet have a leather
jacket. And if the girls in the booth

are really cute, you’ll punch in Love
me tender, love me cruel as if you
were leaning against the cell bars all

moody and alone, almost showing your need
to be loved and not just fucked. And, yes,
you will stick around because

where else is there to go.

 

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Time-Life: The Sixties: Operators Standing By
1. Soundtrack
There are songs you are supposed to remember: the soundtrack
of your youth, a Time-Life special. Oh, precious boomer, […]


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Mississippi John Hurt (Oberlin College, 1965)
Holding his guitar as if sitting on the porch steps
looking at a cotton field across the yard
instead of rows and rows of white faces, young,
polite, Mississippi John sings “Casey Jones,”
and when Casey slows the train because the sheep
are on the track he let’s the guitar say “God damn
you sheep” as if those are words he knows not to
say to white folks but also as if we’re not those
white folk and so are in on the joke. And “Avalon
Blues,” because Avalon is his home, so we know
he is authentic as we listen for the truth
because this is not “Que Sera Sera” and Doris
Day, not Dean Martin “That’s Amoré.” This is,
we believe, the real Real, good to the last drop,
that lovin’ spoonful of Maxwell House coffee
the woman he once had knew how to brew
just for him, and when he sings “cock-a-doo-
dle-do” because the Richland Woman knows
any dude’s cock’ll do, he is so gently polite
we do not quite see the mask he wears even
as we hear something of how the intricate rag-
time of his picking plays back, forth between
what the children don’t understand and the big
folk do about the order of things—young, old,
black and white, boundaries and trespassings,
the interweavings of race so deeply known they
are before thought, beyond thought. And we
believe we understand.


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Tim Hunt’s publications include the collections Fault Lines and The Tao of Twang and the chapbooks Redneck Yoga and Thirteen Ways of Talking to a Blackbird. Hunt’s poems have appeared in many journals including Epoch, CutBank, and others. He has been awarded the Chester H. Jones National Poetry Prize and twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He lives, oddly, in Normal, Illinois.