Prism 52.4 Sneak Preview – “Mt. Misen” by Jordan Mounteer

PRISM 52.4 launches soon! To tide you over until then, here’s “Mt. Misen” by Jordan Mounteer, which won the 2014 PRISM international poetry contest and will be appearing alongside the work of seventeen (!) other poets in issue 52.4. Enjoy!

Mt. Misen

Miyajima, Japan

Blue-stemmed smoke lobbies at your ankles
for some safety from its own diminishing.

Next to the shrine incense smolders
and knots around the gentle clack of prayer

wheels turned by a grandmother in a felt coat
who will not meet your eyes. Every grief

is a refugee in transit, working its way on foot
with everything it owns. That’s how you must think of it

now, not homeless but as something unable
to return. Suddenly you are alone on stone steps

beneath a wooden torii gate, the right angles
of contemplation. A heavy shovel rests against its post

like a worn-down grin, suffering its black rust and
a crooked handle, rain-smoothed. Eastward the Seto Sea

is glaucoma as far as the eye can manage,
its origins wracked in fog: it is the same

with us, every proximity receding from its center
like weather losing sight of how far it’s come.

What there is of wind hiking up off the coast has become
a sort of exhaustion hammocked among the blood-shot

leaves of a maple. Circling the valley a hawk
gathers his arrogance on low-thermals, slanting

light into a kind of alchemy between his feathers.
The claimed steepness of his privacy. You’ve missed

something, the way old excuses for loneliness no longer work
after too many years of use: a wooden handle narrowed

down by the rough labor of your fingers, old age
thinning out our expectations of loss and function.


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