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Maintrunk Country Roadsong -- Sam Hunt

Guest poem sent in by Benjamin Withy
(Poem #1565) Maintrunk Country Roadsong
 Driving south and travelling
 not much over fifty,
 I hit a possum ... 'Little
 man,' I muttered chopping
 down to second gear,
 'I never meant you any harm.'

 My friend with me, he himself
 a man who loves such nights,
 bright headlight nights, said
 'Possums? just a bloody pest,
 they're better dead!'
 He's right of course.

 So settling back, foot down hard,
 Ohakune, Tangiwai -
 as often blinded by
 the single headlight of
 a passing goods train as by
 any passing car -

 Let the Midnight Special shine
 its ever-loving light on me:
 they run a prison farm
 somewhere round these parts;
 men always on the run.
 These men know such searchlight nights:

 those wide shining
 eyes of that young possum
 full-beam back on mine,
 watching me run over him ...
 'Little man,
 I never meant you any harm.'
-- Sam Hunt
Note: The lines "Let the Midnight Special shine/its ever-loving light on me:"
are in italics.

Sam Hunt is a New Zealand poet and raconteur, and in this poem he captures the
essence of driving down the middle of the country at night, the road running
parallel to the railroad.

The imagery of the moon, the headlights, searchlights and the possums eyes ties
together the narrative. When he recites his poetry he uses a style that tends
to lurch from word to word, the pauses not where you'd have thought, but it
suits the words he writes. His poems convey something of the country, fresh,
new, and still rough around the edges.

Benjamin

[Links]

Biography and Assessment
  http://www.samhunt.co.nz/
  http://www.bookcouncil.org.nz/writers/huntsam.html

52 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

Bob & Judy Williams said...

It's perhaps unnecessary to state but the 'Midnight Special' is from
an old Blues song. I remember hearing Josh White sing this.

This is a lovely poem. The reticence is a good touch. The narrator's
temporary compassion is destroyed by the brutality of his companion.
This bridges out into all sorts of meanings.

Bob

John Burstow said...

Hi Minstrels,

Reading today's poem (#1565), 'Maintrunk Country Roadsong' by Sam Hunt, I
was struck by how it shares an experience with William Stafford's
'Travelling Through the Dark,' not to mention Robert Burns' famous 'To a
Mouse.' You've got the Burns poem already, as #776, but not the Stafford. It
is interesting to compare how differently (or not so differently) each poet
places the individual relative to Nature and Society.

'Traveling Through The Dark'

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason-
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all-my only swerving-,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

-William Stafford

Then, combining the themes of "driving through the dark" and "what are we to
do?" there's the following, often anthologized, early Robert Creeley poem:

'I Know a Man'

As I sd to my
friend, because I am
always talking, -- John, I

sd, which was not his
name, the darkness sur-
rounds us, what

can we do against
it, or else, shall we &
why not, buy a goddamn big car,

drive, he sd, for
christ's sake, look
out where yr going.

-Robert Creeley

Thanks for your site,

John

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