I can’t recall your face,
as if we are constantly turning away
from one other. A breeze flattens
the blue yukata against your hips,
stirs the long chime of your braid,
black as water underground.
For long minutes I watch you stare
into the ocean, baffled by circumference.
A longing you cannot pronounce.
Sunset blushes through the torii trusses,
notches dust into a solid kind of light.
In the evenings I find you near
the temple’s grove, the audible
movement of water over stones
like a lover, unable to console their shapes.
In Late May I’m building stairs
down the muddy bank to the shore.
Each axed log-end juts from the earth.
I imagine the ladder of an animal’s spine
as it descends into a private knowing.
The sub rosa of our origins,
something we do not broach out of fear
that the other will remember correctly.
In this dream there is a daughter.
She walks beside her mother
with a wooden pail to collect mussels.
In the evening she pants delightedly
as their pale-oily bodies curl in the cast-iron pan
like questions, and my flat palm
across shoulders soothes her breathing.
The doctors call it zensoku – asthma –
but you know better. The stigma
gripped around her lungs like coral.
Every night the fish of your own body
beneath the sheets adding another word
to its frantic language.
One morning you are both gone.
I stoke the fire with cabled rounds of fragrant
sugi cedar. Salt in the air scours my eyes,
and I say nothing to the sparrows
shuddering on the windowsill,
feathers breached by storm.
It takes an hour to brave my tea.
Already knowing where you’ve gone,
I’ll go there anyway.
The shoreline half-deafened by its own rage
so it will not have to reply to mine.
Only the consolation of green glass,
a million fragments choked onto the stones,
the surf’s slow throat narrowing each
around their hardness. Each the size
of your mouth narrowing around my name.
I hear it slacken in the foam-wrack,
your landlocked breath,
a gasping of the flesh as it sours off
and two pairs of dark fins fall back beneath a wave.
Jordan Mounteer’s writing has appeared in numerous Canadian and American publications, and he most recently won PRISM international’s Pacific Spirit Poetry Contest and was shortlisted for CV2’s Youngbuck Poetry Prize. His debut book of poems Liminal came out this spring.
Artwork: Anna Dittmann, “Pulse”