Aleppo Falls as Winter Fog Settles on the Chitose River


Stephen Toskar – TRANSCEND Media Service

smoke rising from a snuffed-out candle
the heady scent of cinnamon
moments before you come

and fall to earth like bricks
screaming out lamentations
from inside a refugee’s mouth

wild swans cursing the cold all night
ice growing like mold along the riverbank
buttery fog slowly melting in the moonlight’s glare

Japan Air Self-Defense Force jets buzzing low over the river all morning
the letters tucked under sweptback metal wings bleeding
into this prayer for the bombed children of Aleppo

and for floating salmon feasted upon by foxes
their skeletons strewn on terraced riverbanks
toothy jaws frozen wide singing one final song

of the powder snow brushed from uncut greens
a tiny black & white jumping spider both hands up
reciting an identical poem on a frostbit shred of kale—

how the world let an entire city be bombed and massacred
because of elections and gifts to buy and capitulation to power
search & rescue dogs sniffing out spoils of war rotting under rubble

Stephen Toskar is a longtime resident of Japan. His poems have appeared in Arc Poetry Magazine, Tokyo Poetry Journal, The Pedestal Magazine, LA Progressive, Hollywood Progressive, Chattahoochee Review, Dissident Voice, Poetry Nippon, Jayanta Mayapatra’s Chandrabhaga, and Cyrano’s Journal. Also in the anthologies Manifestations and Farewell to Nuclear, Welcome to Renewable Energy, the latter a bilingual collection of poems assembled in reaction to the nuclear disaster in Fukushima. Living on the northern island of Hokkaido with his wife and young son near the banks of the Chitose River, he is a professor in the Dept. of International Language Studies at Hokkaido Bunkyo University.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 2 Jan 2017.

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5 Responses to “Aleppo Falls as Winter Fog Settles on the Chitose River”

  1. Gary Corseri says:

    Very glad to see this poem by my friend and colleague (as Instructors of English at the University of Florida) from the 70s, Stephen Toskar. I’ve long admired Professor Toskar’s work, and he proves here that he’s still “got it.”

    Here, Toskar demonstrates and vivifies a transcendent quality of life on Earth–a quality one also finds in the work of Emanuel Garcia, a new friend, whose work has also been featured at the TMS site: i.e., a quality of the interconnections–even between species, even between the plant and animal “kingdoms.” It’s a “transcendent” vision such as that encountered by the Transcendentalists (like Thoreau and Emerson, Alcott and others) of the Concord Renaissance of America’s 19th Century (and, to some extent, by the “Beat” writers–like Kerouac, Ferlinghetti, Snyder, Levertov, Baraka, Ginsberg in our 20th Century). In our modern, fragmented, and increasingly fragmenting, world of technological marvels–applied especially to the horrendous mechanics of war!–it is a vision which may salvage the human spirit, heal our endangered planet and make us whole again.

    • Thank you Gary. Inspired. Inspiring. Like Toskar.

      Let’s stick to the positives even though we are being clobbered by the powers that be–military, financial, political, scientific, cultural, structural. Peace/nonviolence should not be utopian dreams but rooted in reality; even poetic reality.

      Happy New Year!

  2. Stephen Toskar says:

    Thank you both for your comments. Out of a sense of hopelessness, sometimes poetry is a lifeline to grab onto to try to pull ourselves out of the wreckage strewn around us, both for the poet and the reader. Well, at least for the poet.

  3. Lorraine Westreich says:

    I am inspired and proud of my cousin, Stephen’s, word craft. His ability to paint with his written thoughts is extraordinary. So many years and miles have separated us, but late in life to have reconnected through social media is a blessing. I really never knew he was so smart when last we spent any substantial time together (I’m guessing around age 12!!

  4. Gary Corseri says:

    Agree with Lorraine–it’s great to reconnect and discover new treasure in old friends, acquaintances, family! (One of the great advantages of these contemp times–in spite of the noise and confusions–our ability to connect and reconnect!)

    Poetry and the Arts can help us to connect to the deepest parts of ourselves, too, as Toskar has it, and pull us out of the “wreckage.”

    The Arts are an essential part of Peace Studies, and Galtung has written cogently about “Direct, Structural and Cultural” Violence in terms of delimiting our choices and our potential growth as human beings and Earth-beings! Deeper understanding and greater vision, empathy, concrete efforts and solutions to realize that greater vision, and an appreciation of the resonant power of Art can help our world to heal.

    Thanks, Stephen, and Emanuel, and thanks to TMS and Antonio, for offering food for thought and nourishment for the soul!