Do you not see the waters of the Yellow River
Come flowing from the sky?
The swift stream pours into the sea and returns never-more?
– Li Po, An Exhortation
Li Po liked to get hammered on wine and write poems. His “Exhortations” (there were many) find their modern counterpart in poems like Baudelaire’s Get Drunk, in which the poets celebrate life’s rich bounty of wine, words and love. Li Po was not adverse to what he called “reckless revelry,” which is not to say he was not serious about anything. He was very devoted to nature and would tear up at the sight of the constellations. He was a sensualist and spent many days and years by rivers and under the stars. He was in awe of all of it. In his poems, he would state, “We never grow tired of each other, the stars and I.”
I’ve not spent a lot of time in nature and lately I’ve had a desire to be by the river or the lake. I like watching birds and in Tokyo, I really loved watching the whir of carp and koi and goldfish in the ponds in the public parks. Tokyo still looms large in my thoughts and day-dreams. I want to go back. I miss it; much the way I miss New Orleans when I’m not there. It is a dream-city full of color and blinding imagery and light. It is an urban reliquary as much of the imagination as it is a city of order and clock-like efficiency. I love the way the Japanese blend images and words and architecture and light.
There is a stretch of subterranean business district called “Piss Alley” (named so because at one time they all shared the same restroom) filled with bars, restaurants, clip-joints and bazaar-like shops that is so dizzying in its claustrophobic stalls and stores, it feels like an above ground river of human excess and activity. It is hypnotic. Like the rest of Tokyo, it is dreamy and exotic in its otherness. The kind of place I’m very comfortable.
I love places that challenge what I know. Places where I shut up and look and listen and let it teach me their rhythms and sounds and colors. Tokyo is a quiet city for one as large as it is; hell, for any city. It is odd and wonderful to me, and I want badly to go back.
I like its quiet kindness and inescapable poetry. It has connected me with an instinct to seek a kind of peace with myself.