Tune-Out Tokyo

Once just one more visible visitor

In the frantic, epicanthic broth,

It’s been four years for me now

Lost in this fold of Asia.

 

It swallows, you know?

It tunes you out, Tokyo,

This glittering jewel

Of people and people,

This distant dream, but

Do you find yourself

Swept up in the sweet

Sweet potato vendor’s song?

The exotic in the everyday?

That’s why I stay.

 

Four years,

Pushing past the barcode baldies

And the tissue superstars,

The eggskin children

And the L-bent old raisinettes.

Sauntering behind

The stickbone bums of cooing coquettes

Clacking their heels,

Calculatingly naïve.

These roku-jo ojousamas,

Pretty preeners,

Processed and packaged

With their poodle men

Who went from hara kiri

To a hairadise of

Heroin-chested hipsters,

From bamboo spears

To brand-name gear.

 

This is not otousan’s Tokyo.

But it’s mine.

And I get the question a lot,

Been here long?

 

Um…yeah. Four orbits,

Three mamacharis.

Two poems that bombed,

Maybe more.

Many ways to mark

Time here, you know, life here

So that you don’t forget –

Four blotto birthdays

Three just-for-now jobs

Two terrible troughs

One half-forgotten friend’s funeral

Zero savings.

 

My stamen stiffens in desire

To parlay purgatory into paradise.

Though gone too easily,

My easy money evaporating in the

Endless ephemeral entropy,

In the nightly strobe of cerebral surrender.

 

But it’s the deep throb of possibility here

The glimpses you get here

The secrets you know here

The people you love here

The gems you germinate here

And the way you treasure up here.

 

Tunneling tetris-like

Though throngs of thousands,

These people amaze me,

Frustrate me,

Obsess me

With their contradictions.

Among them my friends,

Flinging feelers to the sky –

Where u at? What u doing? –

Gripping our gadgets like gonads,

Twin thumbs hummingbirding.

 

I mean, we’re weaving our strands here.

In this anthill agnosia –

Free radicals in a colossal

Collective organism.

 

Snatches in batches of foreign tongue,

The drowned-out drone

Of ambient articulation,

Almost understood.

 

This is my Tokyo,

Plum-wine parklife

In a vibe of non-violence

And the gentle rhythm of jan ken Japan.

 

This is my Tokyo –

Despite the someday someday of no solid dream

The faded furniture future

Of intangible success and

The addictive apple

Of amplified image,

It is unreal, unlimited,

Unlike anything.

 

It’s hard to impart

Why I cannot depart.

Maybe someday I’ll be smarter,

A self-starter,

I’ll map it out, one day,

When I have it all figured out,

When I have it all treasured up.

But for now it feels nice

To take train after train here,

To tube chopstick tracks

Across the teeming terrain

Of this whirling wonder of the world

Which so weirdly, wildly

Wants to call itself home.

 

 

———-

Japanese translation key:

 

Roku jo – standard size of a Japanese studio apartment

Ojousama – queen

Hara kiri – suicide by ritual disembowelment

Otousan – father

Mamachari – old lady-type bicycle ridden by almost everyone

Jan ken – rock-paper-scissors game commonly used to decide things in Japan

 

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