Jordan Mounteer: Urban Koans



Bricked corridors, buildings bunched
elbow-to-elbow in the blue-shift

of coastal rain. Street-lamps duck
and blush as we pass, fluoride-gazes

eschewing all but their own perimeters
of pavement, vision hung like a bell

in some Pavlovian stoicism. In a corner café
the woman beside me uses “logistic”

too often to describe the process
for naming her first daughter.

Magnetic interferences of other lives,
their corners flush. Rogue patterns

inter-splice our own – how at this age
all my friends are institutionalized by marriage,

how right angles fashion themselves in every
sky-line silhouette and turn of phrase,

how the word alone in this city
is anaphoric to being.


Intervals of buses Doppler past, heavy-engined.
Transit-routes, I’ve read, modeled on the growth

of Physarum polycephalum: slime-mold
mycelia: neural. Appropriations

implicit in every attempt at
a human configuration.

Outside a Starbucks a blind pigeon drags
a scabbed-white leg across the pavement

to pinpoint crumbs littered under tables.
A useless desire slides like anger, nothing I can do about it:

unpin the voodoo between its wings,
let it dream of trees.


I will never assimilate sirens into something familiar.
The phlegmatic cough of the man down the block

collecting cigarettes off the sidewalk
as if they were clues.

Neon bar sign’s chemical slap
igniting like indigestion.

Also, arrivals I did not foresee. Wind shunted up
avenues, smeared on the window panes,

its treatise finding little purchase
among the constancies of the city’s idling.

The extant stirring of a brain
while it sleeps: delta-wave erosion

at the sharp banks of a dream
where the salmon’s rubicund belly

oscillates above enormous rooftops,
its dying spilled out like slit-sky,

a lingua ex nihilo. Nothing grows here,
it mutters through hooked lips.


The goldfish you abandoned on my doorstep when you left
has been left out to October’s scavenge.

The neighbours complain about its death as it lifts
like a rapt eye, pressing all of its certainty in what it sees

against the thin dished bladder of a Ziploc bag.
This particular harshness.

I want no proof that I have lived here,
nothing witness:

river’s shore, bones fussed from the single muscle
of a fish by adolescent osprey. What legacies we leave

for others, messages fingered on the kitchen window
suddenly visible in the condensation

of morning’s drained light,
the cusp of a single word, held vowels.


Felt petticoat, leather gloves, Oxford shoes,
every angle conscious of the invisible camera

when you snap your fingers on the cigarette
between them. I would tell you, forget the gridlock

of trying to love in two dimensions. In the distance
the sweep of Granville Bridge mid-yawn above

the inlet in an act of uncoordinated interface.
Westward horizon’s huge arms

fold into each other like a book being shut,
blackness chaptering the sky.

Smoke if it had a sound would be the crow
conducted in its genius opening zippers

or flagging down small roadside tragedies.
The weather’s scanning field littered

with their Morse-code, the dash dot dash
as they push home, pulled like

magnetic flecks of iron across a grey periphery.
Something impinges on the senses

the way there are sounds you anticipate
before the arrival of bad news.


Far away in the north hills, at the fingertips
of highways, mossed Sitka harvest the dark,

seminal, bundling themselves as thick
as marriage vows in the apogee of winter.

Scar tissue when it binds
in one direction:

sap wrung down pale trunks.
All our conversions of amber.

Jordan Mounteer graduated from the UVic Writing Department and has appeared in The Fiddlehead, The Malahat Review, Arc, Grain, Prairie Fire, and The Antigonish Review. He recently won the 2014 PRISM international Poetry Prize, and is currently writing bad were-wolf romance novellas in Australia to pay the bills.

Author: Jake Byrne

Poetry editor.

4 Replies to “Jordan Mounteer: Urban Koans”

  1. Like I was there, wondering if the words fall from his fingertips or if it is a long painstaking experience to produce such beauty to be enjoyed and left awestruck by others!

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