Tim Hunt



Jurgen Burgin

Memorial Day, 1955 (Golden Gate National Cemetery, The Presidio, San Francisco, California)

The fog, ebbing from the hill,
leaves a tide line
of white stones on the green beach
where you are standing with those
who have brought you to what
you do not understand.

The woman
whose hair is white
and smells of powder
when she hugs you
holds your hand.
In the other she clutches a tiny cloth
as if it, too,
might slip away.

As you watch the noise
of the tiny flags and sprays
of flowers offered here
and there to the white
stones, you can tell
there is a song
somewhere in the noise, and she
is listening, hearing
the silence somewhere
in the song.

She hears it because grief
is not a noise or song
but an ache as one touches the silence—
more as the silence
reaches across and takes your hand,
not like a parent
or lover but like
itself, silence.

                       And so you watch
the tiny flags as they wave
and the parade of stones
marching in place. And you watch
the fog as it flutters, gray and thinning,
in the morning sun that is
almost warm. And you hold
her hand as you try
to hear the silence
and not to hear it.

Older man in pick-up truck, café parking lot (1967)

He is waiting, as he does
Every afternoon, for someone
Who will walk out of the café.
Perhaps a waitress who has worked
The breakfast shift and lunch, a small
Town where all are regulars—their
Lines polished into routines: Hey
Darlin’ how bout some more a that
Diesel. And the roles put on
like Halloween costumes as if they hid
the shared histories and there were
people out there seated in some
darkened theater who’d dolled up
and paid to see the show—the daily trick
and treat of look, this is me
isn’t it, and the recitations a fresh
piece of yesterday’s cherry pie,
or apple, as they wave their cups
her way and she, in her stage
makeup smile, refills the cups
as if applauding, earning
the small town tips until
she exits stage left or right,
wearing her tired feet,
reaching into her purse
for a cigarette.

But in this picture what matters
Is only that he is waiting—
The truck’s red skin
An oxidized orange, the faded
Work shirt, khaki, stretched
Over his belly as he leans back
In the seat looking toward the hills,
The west, the sky. The photo
Can not show what he sees or why
He is looking as if he sees a forever,
A nothing—so still it is as if he
Is no longer waiting, no longer
looking for something.

Three in the Key of Jukebox

            1.  Soda Shop
Is it three for a quarter, one
A dime, or one a nickel,
Three a dime?  It depends
On the time—two straws
In a malted, a cherry coke side.

And is that “Louie, Louie” or
“Teen Angel” rippling
The Wurlitzer lights as the
Day turns night. Oh, you
Decide.

            2.  Honky Tonk
Your boot on the rail and the fiddle
Dancing the lust and loss—
Sometimes even a little
Uptempo bravado, as you drink
Your shot of ache, dreaming
Of some bar beyond the tracks
Where the ladies who are not
Do the moneymaker shake.

            3.  Juke Joint
Sometimes the sax is sweet—
100 proof honey as she does
The slow grind, like a dream
Angel should. Sometimes
It pushes hard, hard in time—
Hucklebuck, as if she is
The bass. Dark. Gleaming
As you clutch the ebony
Neck and slap and drive
The beat as if there is no
World outside, no time.

Jimmy Reed Plays the Fillmore (March 1967)

Jimmy Reed, juiced and smiling, stands center
stage.  His wife beside him whispers the lyrics
up to his ear as he cocks his head as if listening
to a bird across the field somewhere in the trees
by the creek as he pauses behind the mule and plow.
Strumming, he looks out over the heads of all
us white children who’ve come to hear him sing
as if he isn’t a black man or rather because he is
a Black man, and whichever it is, it doesn’t
make sense.  So he looks over our heads
at the back wall somewhere beyond the lights
as if something real were there and sings
“Big Boss Man”—his song, the one
all the kids with guitars and amps
do as if it made them real, cool.
But here the bass string riff is not just
a swagger or shuffle but says
I’ve been working all day but I’m not
working now, so gimme a beer and a shot. Oh
“Big boss man, you ain’t so big, you
jes tall that’s all.” And we, young and
white, clap to the beat, not hearing
what it might mean for his “boss man,”
the “boss man,” the white “boss man”
who pees in the white toilet, not the one
for Coloreds Only, to be “jes tall”
instead of “Big” in all those ways that we,
young and white, clapping to the beat, do
not see, just as we do not see the mask
that hides what it means to pretend the boss
man is “jes tall,” or how claiming this
is a kind of freedom—an almost
saying No. “Oh, Boss Man, You ain’t
so big, You jes tall, That’s all” and in
the song, the singing of it, it is all—al-
most all.

 

Tim Hunt’s publications include Fault Lines (The Backwaters Press, 2009); The Tao of Twang (CW Books, 2014); Poem’s Poems & Other Poems (CW Books,  2016); and the chapbooks Redneck Yoga, White Levis, and Thirteen Ways of Talking to a Blackbird. His work has appeared in such journals as CutBank, Epoch, Quarterly West, and Rhino. He was awarded the Chester H. Jones National Prize for Poetry, and thrice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His scholarly publications include The Textuality of Soulwork: Jack Kerouac’s Search for Spontaneous Prose, Kerouac’s Crooked Road: Development of a Fiction; and the five-volume edition The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers. Originally from the quicksilver mining region of Northern California, he is University Professor of English at Illinois State University. 

Tim Hunt’s Website  

Tim Hunt at Poets & Writers 

More Art by Jurgen Burgin at EIL