Downloadable Caffeine

“All this new technology / will eventually give us new feelings / that will never completely displace the old ones, / leaving everyone feeling quite nervous / and split in two.” 
–David Berman, “Self-Portrait at 28”

Let’s celebrate the coffee hour, when the day
could still take a right turn or a left turn or turn out
better than okay or at least better than yesterday.
Sunlight might splash on your face and you
might hear Nashville in a stone skipping
or in the voices of those whose blood runneth orange.

Let’s call these Winning Lottery Tickets before
we scratch them, in the coffee hour, Realm of Could-Be,
because singing a song into existence feels like
injecting a new narcotic called Bridge-Between-Us
because I have been listening to David Berman for years
and strumming a guitar that wouldn’t let me learn to play it.

Let’s say a garage band opens the door for air
as they work on Silver Jews covers: “Pretty Eyes”,
“Send in the Clouds”; and “I Remember Me.”
Let’s say it’s a real garage door and not a metaphor
unless metaphor means open up and let the music spill out
which it actually does, come to think of it.

Metaphors are a radical invention. They connect us.
Metaphors are O.G. cell phones, and what would
Whitman have to say about Post-punk revival?
Welcome, world of thousands of friends
with whom I’ll never shake hands or share a hug.
Welcome, feelings that sit awkwardly and won’t leave

because the present feels like 66% past and 33% future,
and if you wake thinking knowing anything with certainty
feels like lifting an automobile off a wounded poodle
and a phrase from a tabloid headline
(like Bigfoot steals alien space craft)
rolls and rolls around your head,

let me tell you again about the night I saw a cover band
play a Silver Jews set at The End in Nashville,
how Bob Nastanovich and David Berman showed up,
Bob all goofy charm, David humble and nervous and split.
I wish I could go back, plug that music and that night
into myself, inject a heavy dose of song, let it fill my cup.

TOM C. HUNLEY directs the MFA Creative Writing Program at Western Kentucky University, where he has taught since 2003. He won the 2020 Rattle Chapbook Contest.