Lunar Eclipse by the Chitose River, December 10, 2011

The crusted snow crunching under our boots
on the way to a clearing in the trees—swans on the river
complaining in high-pitched cries of the cold—reminded me
of breaking into a fresh-baked lemon meringue pie as a child
with the back of a cold spoon.

One blanket spread on the snow, another over us,
we watched the shadow of some hidden thing
begin to eat an uncut moon.
We also feasted—on each other—
fumbling with buttons and zippers.
The erotic peel of Velcro.

I mistook your animal cry
as a warning of something behind my back,
but there was only the moon glowing faintly red
like a piece of charcoal smoldering under a cover of ash.

A snow owl concealed in the pines
swooped down and plucked something warm from the ice.

Our mouths formed around two perfectly round, silentO’s
when whatever had swallowed the moon
spit it back out again.

Then you spread your own white wings and swooped,
ripping ribbons from my flesh with your nails.
But it was your voice that was wounded;
in the cold I felt no pain.

The last thing I recall:
you reaching toward the moon
to put out the pockmarked eyes of the only other witness.

Click here to listen to Stephen Toskar reading “Lunar Eclipse by the Chitose River, December 10, 2011”

Stephen Toskar is a longtime resident of Japan and a Professor of International Language Studies at Hokkaido Bunkyo University in Eniwa, Japan. His poems have appeared in such journals as Chandrabhaga, Chattahoochee Review, Poetry Nippon, Dissident Voice, and Cyrano’s Journal. His work has also appeared in the anthologies Manifestations and Farewell to Nuclear Energy, Welcome to Renewable Energy, a bilingual collection of 218 poets’ poems published in reaction to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. He lives in Chitose with his wife and young son near the banks of the Chitose River.