The Tokyo-Van Nuys Express
Poems written in Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto and Hiroshima, Japan
Ain’t Got No Press / August 2020 / Paperback / 286 Pages
Rick Lupert’s 25th collection of poems and latest travelogue written in Japan while visiting Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima, follows in the footsteps of Richard Brautigan and is loosely inspired by his title The Tokyo-Montana Express. Follow Lupert through Japan with his signature wit and poet’s eye as your guide, as he stands in the mysterious “stick line”, as indescribable food is put in his mouth (and described anyway), as a monkey crawls on his head, as Hiroshima looms at the end of it all.
“My father loved Tokyo and would’ve been delighted that a poet in the 21st-century would become a fellow traveling companion, 44 years after The Tokyo-Montana Express was published. Rick Lupert creates his own unique poetic journey–taking the reader on a metaphoric Express–from Van Nuys, California to Tokyo, Japan. His poems are funny, moving, insightful, and full of a traveler’s wonder and bemusement.”
–Ianthe Brautigan, author of You Can’t Catch Death: A Daughter’s Memoir Writing Teacher, Sonoma State University
“I’m beginning to suspect that Japan exists only in dreams…. In Rick Lupert’s The Tokyo-Van Nuys Express, the author returns with a new travelogue in poetry. With equal parts charm and bewilderment, Lupert navigates a cultural panorama with no seam between the intimate and fantastic, the political and absurd. As a fan of Lupert’s previous journeys in verse, I am always delighted by his craft and sure-fire delivery. But with this latest collection, he has somehow refined his signature approach; this book moves like the magical train invoked by its title. And yet, it never feels rushed, every section is its own odyssey.”
–Brendan Constantine, author of The Opposites Game
Rick Lupert’s The Tokyo-Van Nuys Express is more than a travelogue, it’s a collection of sharply observed vignettes informed by subtle wit and empathy couched in poetic diction that is clear, concise and profound.
–Richard Modiano, Executive Director Emeritus Beyond Baroque Literary/Arts Center
Poetry from The Tokyo-Van Nuys Express
This is the Poem
This is the poem where I tell you about
the knot in my throat when we left our kid
for three weeks amongst strangers who
promised they’d remind him to brush his teeth.
This is the poem where I describe the last hug
where he patted me on the back several times
and, as you probably know, I wasn’t able to
tell him anything.
This is the poem where I tell you about
how he yelled at us for reminding him
a third time to write postcards to people
who love him.
This is the poem you may have read before
or written yourself when you’ve come to
these times where these things happen.
They grow up so fast. They grow up so tall.
The doctor says he might be five foot six
someday, which is taller than any of his
immediate family. We hope it doesn’t happen
while we’re away. We’re going to Japan
to feel like giants. This is the poem where
we go away to Japan, leaving our son
for what seems like a thousand years.
I desperately want to hold Addie’s hand
as we walk to meet our tour bus, but
we read somewhere that public displays
of affection are not as well received as
the slurping sound you make when you
suck ramen noodles into your mouth.
I don’t know what I did to deserve this life
this hotel breakfast, this ability to be
in this place, this nearby hand and its
magnetic pull to my own.
The breakfast buffet at the Hilton, Shinjuku is the stuff of champions.
I consider you all to be champions
so, by all means, make your way here
and have at it.
The coffee at the breakfast buffet
at the Hilton, Shinjuku, in Tokyo, Japan,
formerly known as Edo
is the sacred beverage of champions.
You already know how I feel about you
and let’s all be grateful I caught the
spelling error and we are left with
champions instead of the
French word for mushrooms.
At Meiji Shrine
Long path from train
through gates, large like trees
A sea of umbrellas come
to visit the enshrined souls of
Emperor Meiji and his consort
We wash hands
ritually like before a Jewish meal.
We bow and clap.
We drop coins in box.
People hang votive wood notes
like prayers in a Western Wall.
This is not an ancient place
But it is quiet like history.
Until young boy with his
bird sounds video game
forces us to move to a
more quiet corner.
The soul of the emperor
is broken up by rain drops.
We take him away in our wet clothes.
If I take a picture of a mountain
and tell you it is Mount Fuji
would you believe me?
Nishiki market sells
everything you can imagine
and a lot of things your
imagination has not
come up with yet
but that will haunt you
for the rest of your life.
Obi Dobi Do
Addie has been judging the amount of food
she’s taken in today, by how tight the kimono belt
feels wrapped around her. I think she called it
an obi. The obi (pronounced ooh-bee) sits below the
booby (pronounced boo-bee). I think a letter is
removed as you get lower on the body
kind of like a reverse zipper song.
A zipper song is not a song about zippers
(though it could be) but rather a song where
one word or line of the song changes to
create a new verse, where the rest of the words
remain the same. Zipper songs are great
for sing-alongs because once you know
how it goes, you can easily change one
word or phrase without learning an entirely
new verse. If you’d like to know more about
zipper songs, try doing a search on the internet.
This is a book about Japan and I’ve run out of
space to continue this kind of tangent.
Today the racist who
runs my country
to go back to where
they came from.
Today I go to Hiroshima
to apologize for
yet another thing.