:: Article

Four Poems Japanese

By Matthew Peipert.

Club No Style

A five a.m. genuflection,
To the predawn perfection
On the curb outside Club NoStyle.
Swimming in my shirt
In a pool of pill  –
I am post-human, blown-open and
I’m glinting
The glamour inside,
Breathing the music alive
Trusting the one friend beside –
The one friend I need tonight,
Can’t lose tonight cause
We’re wasted wandering wantless wasters
And we see the sun now,
And we should go in now,
See there’s only so much time now
For this perfection,
This genuflection
In the creakjoint
Waking whalesong
Of Shibuya morning.

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 hari 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
In hummingbird hands of communication.

I mean, we’re weaving our strands here.
In this anthill agnosias –
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.


Translation key:
Roku jo – standard size of a Japanese studio apartment
Ojousama – queen
Hari 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


Maybe I’ve lost it.
My timid turtle’s head
Pulling back from this and that,
A true master of nothing
But detachment.

I do my daily dailies:
Vitamins B and C and D
And a nightcap or three,
At least.

At my worst I’m a deadbeat daruma,
Who thinks too much
With one eye forever,
At my best a mighty mote,
Drum and bassing beneath brutal skyline,
Punk rocking in the palpable
Commercialism of the city – dancing to dying music
In a driftwood daze –
My mouthful of secrets
And a skeleton on my chain.

Sometimes I think I get it
Sometimes I almost understand.
For example,
An avocado heart,
Tight in my grip,
Is so substantial,
Says it all,
Could provide some kind of focus
To life but too many holes, hips, tits
Wisp by, wraith-like in their distraction.

It’s uncouth, I know,
But my imagination is ruthless
In its crudity
And anyway ambition is nothing more than torture
In a sexy wig and ladylips,
Or so I tell myself.

Now I’m thirty and so busy
Not making money
And so torn between continents
And other large forces
That I barely stop to notice
That thirty is where the riddles begin,
Thirty’s the scar you never knew you had,
A film of fucked-up feeling
Fronting some future
That I realize for the first time
Won’t necessarily get any better.

I’m thirty, with a bad tattoo
Called my twenties matching
The bad tattoo from my twenties,
And I’m just getting started
Going nowhere
Or somewhere, from here
So please lord
I’m asking you, once again,
For ten more years
And the hefty heart
Of a humble avocado.


Translation key:

Daruma – A Japanese wish doll. Using black ink, one fills in a single eye while thinking of a wish. Should the wish later come true, the second eye is filled in.


We drive the mountains,
Sloughing the city’s sour sebum,
Free for once from
The vending vex machine
Of vimvamp Tokyo.

Out here the world is tilting,
Bleeding itself beautiful,
Oxidizing our year,
Mollifying the fears
That forever together can bring,
And we drive on.

Curving this carved country
Of gullies and peaks,
We peek out speaklessly
At dying old dragon Japan.

Here’s a scarecrow, so
Oriental in its field,
And there a persimmon tree,
Its plucky plume of orange
Punctuating autumn’s auburn red
And mango yellow.

We find ourselves in nature, they say,
And finally there it is (and here we are) –
A twin lake so pristine,
So pure and palliative
That its strange and murky bottom
Can be forgotten
If only just for today.


Matthew Peipert is a writer currently based in New York City. His work has appeared in Japanzine and Spork Press. More of Matthew’s writing can be found here.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, July 12th, 2009.