"Ten on Pump Three" We are the people you do not see: a bob of peroxide in The Dollar Store (why are you here?). Or that camo splotch at the next pump as you fill up your leased SUV, fingers tapping your iPhone, while I measure ten into a Ford 150, Chevy or Dodge Ram—the bed’s history an unread scrawl of scrapes and dents— playing a scratch off to see if I’m a winner. And, true, we both know the saying about putting pants on one leg at a time, but politics for you is about who gets. And keeps. For me? It’s about who is, and isn’t. And that’s a nuthin’ I know, it seems you don’t know. "Vaudeville Skit Revival" (in which we imagine, once again, a Local instructing an Arkansas Traveler) When you hear that fiddle riff, let’s pretend you’re the Traveler and I’m the Local a-rockin’ on a cabin porch. And when you step out of your fancy city car waving that map that doesn’t show where you are as you demand to know Which way to Little Rock? I’ll rock a rock or two as if trying to understand, then hold out my corncob as if sighting along a line to somewhere and drawl, Doan know. Then you’ll sniff and deliver your line: You don’t know much. Then comes mine: Least I ain lost. And again we’ll hear that fiddle riff, as the country folk and city folk laugh and applaud as we vaudeville step it stage front, offering our bows, then do the Shuffle Off to Buffalo: one of us stage right. The other stage left. "Indian Casino (Middletown, CA)" In the Twin Pines Indian Casino it is never day or night and all days are the days between. If you looked up you would see the smoke drifting into the dark beyond the light glowing beyond the invisible baffles, but you are watching the machine, each pull of the handle rolling the cherries and bars, lemons and sevens as they slow, and stop, as you draw another coin from the paper cup, feed it in, and pull again—a rhythm like rocking on a porch as you bring the cigarette to your mouth, the inhale and exhale, but as if the sun has stopped and it is always the moment between the end of work and being called for supper as you rock and smoke and it feels as if the sun has stopped. In the Twin Pines Indian Casino your cigarette dangles from your mouth as you reach and pull, knowing sometimes you’ll win a little, but mostly not, as the coins in the cup fall and rise and fall, and in this rhythm of no time, time passes, and it is neither day or night, and you do not wonder how or when you became the dispossessed. "Still Life with Double Wide and Electric Fiddle" The folding chair’s fraying straps sag from the aluminum frame as you sit in the shade of the trailer’s awning watching without watching the weekly parade— Beamers and Jags, a Cadillac SUV, the fiberglass gleam of the ski boats— slowing through town on their way to the lake resorts. And you know without knowing that no one will stop to ask the way or glance over as if you’re quaint or picturesque. Or even there. Because here is a place to pass through, pass by— an off-brand gas pump, the diner’s window spray painted closed. And to be here is to be lost. Or would be if this were still a place. And so you reach into the cooler for another, as the electrified fiddle plays the fills and Brooks & Dunn testify that good girls go to heaven, while bad girls go everywhere. And because you must believe in something, you believe that that, at least, is somewhere, and you close your eyes and turn the radio up.
Tim Hunt’s collections include Voice to Voice in the Dark (Broadstone Books) and Ticket Stubs & Liner Notes (winner of the 2018 Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award). Recognitions include The Chester H. Jones National Poetry Prize. Originally from the hill country of northern California, he and his wife Susan live in Normal, Illinois, which is not hill country.