KAPALA PRESS

Ellensburg, Washington

Kapala Press is the Vajrayana tributary of dPress (www.dpress.net) which is a literary press, established in 1967, to produce books of my own and my friends' writings and now has over 300 titles in its backlists. At present, the main focus is to create saddle-stiched, short-run, 20 to 40 page editions with color covers utilizing the modern copy machine.     

            Jampa Dorje, aka Richard Denner

 

TRACELESS

Miranda Smith

dPress   2013   Santa Fe

photo by the author

print 9.jpg

Craving

 

The whole day I wanted

to scratch insect bites,

to keep green

daylight in a fragment of glass

and hook it from

the ear. To touch the

warped spine of

the double-helix,

desire soaring

from my eyes like arrows,

even to a passing cloud

that seemed to have escaped

from an Italian chapel.

I languished, watching

a banana peel

bending on the table

like a woman’s back,

the green leaking into

the yellow curve, knowing

I’d soon lose it

to darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

Be still

 

Like a doorway anyone

could walk through,

everyone facing forward, no one

watching anyone else, watch

the breath, like a mother running her finger along

her child’s spine. Eyes loose

over the room, like casting a net:

guess snow.

 

It’s a little like becoming

spring-time: a long tract of time.

Thoughts drift away like cloud cover.

Rest, and rainbows might

lodge in your eyelashes.

 

Be obviously where you are:

like leaving a dinner party

to stand alone on a balcony,

everyone knowing exactly where you are,

where you are not. You are not.

You are almost.

 

You’ve forgotten, again: the breath,

remember, the breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden Absence

 

I've been carved out again,

to enter

the air delicate

as a spiraled shell,

to make palaces

of teacups, garden hoes

of spoons

I've found a shimmering chamber

in the ribcage,

through which it all

can pass.

I hope no prince

will notice I've

become a golden absence;

I want to be lost,

a pool of water

that knows no pocket

of land.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Folds to Revisit

 

Silence, morning to

midday, like frost on every

surface. In silence, I ditch

 

room after room, a bird in

migration, entrances bright

with survival. In the kitchen,

 

a paring knife. Silence

is also speech: my body

speaks, puppet in a vast

arena, tied to the vanishing

point. Three-tier bird cage, we

 

roost in the attic and swoop

down, unremarkable,

unseeking, obeying laws

of our species that fix

 

the night sky, points to compile

and re-visit. No dancing, no

music, or meat (except

for Saturday): In the kitchen, I

 

toss the same choiceless

salad, lettuce a tide, the plate

a passionless beach. I begin

 

again in my bedroom, map

in hand, bedclothes

folded. Folds of horizontal

intent, folds for visiting and

revisiting. In the kitchen,

 

I cup my hands beneath

the hard spray.

 

In the kitchen, I am alone

again with a task, both

necessary and fleeting, I am

some magic juncture

 

between a carrot,

a potato peeler,

and a hand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Possessions, Nearly All Gifts

 

This is my bedroom. On the low bedside table: Two books. Always two books. On a ring-box: Jade Buddha, thumb-height, Mom’s vassal. My desk-lamp – a flick of the switch, and Jade Buddha glows milky green, as if his body is made of clouds and star-powder.

 

I believe objects have spirits, dad announced once, fingering his half-boat pocket-knife. We were moving, packing boxes.

 

Underneath my bed: the laptop computer -- Pandora’s box -- remains shut. Don’t be tempted by music. Zippered suitcase holds two letters: Open in case of emergency. I grow fond of packages, containers.

 

I especially admire a box of candy: It arrives in the mail, beautiful, French, domed like a cottage. An older monastic wants it. We have never spoken. A scribbled note under the door: Are you using the box? Now is my chance: to give it away. It rests in my arms like a birdcage as I bring it downstairs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grandfather Tells Me Secrets

Miami, Fl. 2010.

 

You left and still miss the ripe green

of the avocado tree, the way childhood

gave itself to you, a spoon and green belly

in the palm.

 

You never dreamt of palaces, though others did.

No, you dreamt of weddings

in early evening, lights strung in the trees

like cherries, the grip of a guitar’s neck.

Your dreams star a singing guajiro.

 

Now, in my dreams, a guajiro wanders

a party, singing.

In the daytime, memory resumes:

the guajiro is dressed as policeman

 with hat and gun, nights trap him

one by one until he is not man

but wolf, shuddering

through a forest tableau,

clipping fixture

beneath the moon.

 

 

 

 

 

In the Kitchen

 

 

Touch the amber scars

of the thick plastic

cutting board, its tally

of vanished days.

Hold the knife like this.

 

The day is white

and flat like paper.

This is the last lettuce

of the season; head like a curled

squirrel, small and browning.

 

Now inspect it for ants

running from rivulets – chase them across

linoleum with a sheet of paper,

lift and ferry them

back to the garden.

 

Leaf of garden lettuce:

Prism of water and sunlight,

like the world.

Spun from time, the earth’s rotation

through spring and winter.

Alpha: the only head of lettuce

in existence.

 

The Cuisinart quakes

beneath your palms,

decimates form.

 

A fly steals the afternoon

on its back, jetpacks

across the room.

 

Tofu trembles underwater

in the plastic vat,

sunset aquarium of your effort.

 

Your breath accompanies you, visits.

Wait for it, like a child watching

grass for a soft rustle. This

is another shrine room.

 

Things That Can Be Shared

 

Between two friends:

a book, a meal,

 

eggs cracked

brutally on the bowl

and fried, for the sake

of the other. Also,

inescapably, the self.

 

The stories they know

peer through the window, wild

myths that want to be

taken in. Afterwards,

 

one hands the other

a book. They don’t know if

the joy resides

in the offering,

or the hand’s acceptance;

 

in wondering what the book may contain

 

or knowing that soon

both will have trekked

across the same harsh field

of snow and branches.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day of the Dead

 

The leaves on our tree

are apple yellow, and roots are sprouting

like eyes from a blanket of seeds.

In the bowl, the pomegranates

no longer blush, they scab: and yes,

death festoons the day, only memory

doesn’t expire, to sprout

understanding that the dead

are dead. Perhaps today. The TV

 

news suspends

me, like a car knocked

into neutral, or a god

in indecision: A girl,

my age, faces a house

a block from hers, pressing white sky

like a Sanatorium, but this

is no Hollywood set. Her mother

may be dead

inside, and she waits

in the cold all day

for news. A camera catches

her crying in a red wool hat, not

unlike my own. We hear news

of her waiting. I walk to

the kitchen for candied

pecans, tasting

 

only grit. How to remember

the dead are dead? Even

on your death bed, they say,

the dead crowd your room, oldest

memories rising to the surface

of the mind like hot water, ghosts blooming

from the root

of your unassuming departure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drift

 

Sure, you can think of death

as a disappearance, or drifting

into another room, but what about

 

the emergency lights flashing like a circus

come to town? The whole landscape alters.

A contagion of terror passes through

 

phone lines, between generations. Bad news

sounds like a poem when it comes

from your mother. Back when news

 

was slow as your feet, and theatrical, visitors

appeared one morning

in the salon, breathing differently. The set

 

for terror was more domestic without

the ambulance or car, your ghosts wandered

drawing rooms, curtains dappled the stale air

 

with watercolored light. A cat might drop softly

to the ground from a couch pillow, until

the place was redecorated in the seventies,

 

and ghosts moved to the backyard

in self-exile. A car turns a drifting

mind into a haiku whispered

 

by phone: by mistake,

Grandpa pushed the gas pedal

instead of the brake --

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Memory Song

 

Because you found the carved coconut ring

in the Indian marketplace, bought it

for your love, and forgot it

among the tumble of red glass bracelets

and postcards of tribal children standing

in the grass -- where? when? whose?

colorized like peacocks.

 

Because of the hero, pushing up

the pale green mountain, purple crocuses winking

him forward, laying down in the grass

for a nap, that would last

a century, gray beard curling

in the crook of his shirt like a child's palm:

 

Waking to find his life

spent, and mis-spent

in dreams.

 

Because what if the toad saw

the face above—

lips like red fish, worrying

into the deep blue prism—

 and was impervious?

 

If he forgot he was a prince, if his feet

were content to swim

as the gold orb

drowned? The way that,

 

At 22, I began to believe I might

always stand behind plexiglass

and paper backs, buttressed

by pillowed shoes, and forgot

how to live in time:

 

 

Whether to let the days

pass fast, whether or not to pine

for another age.

 

It’s only now

I'd rather not forget

anyone's age, or the years

my father, wing of black hair shading

his eyes, stood waiting in the camera store,

ready to twist the lock

on the crystal case.

 

It didn't matter what his then-wife forgot.

My father's hair is silver now, over

coffee that smells of chestnuts and Christmas,

the morning between us,

 

springing ocotillos, our blue sky.

A perfect moment, dad says,

but I'm wondering

how to become more adult,

like him.

 

No such thing, he laughs.

But I’m afraid of forgetting

my own age, you see,

of sinking

into the field,

 

of forgetting

the moment to give:

 

the moment

to grasp the golden ball,

and heave it spinning

into the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Poem for Allison Love, Who Announced She Was Skipping Art Class To Go Buy Hair-bands

 

 

How to explain that I wasn't surprised

at news of your death?

 

As a child, I felt the death-bed

was romantic: loves lost,

should-haves, words unspoken;

journey that takes us, regardless.

 

One night, I dreamt I saw you walking

Down our ghost-hall, the lights bouncing

beneath us like fishtank eyes, and we turned

to each other, sister. I burned to tell you

that I loved you.

 

In truth I didn't know you well.

Just that your perfect nose

was bought-- you taught us the word nosejob,

which we whispered like children

trading baseball-card curse words,

you who left through the back door

 

while we measured the pitcher in the red still life.

Once you stopped me before class to ask:

 

How do you stay so thin? Nasal voice

like no one else's, instrument

out of tune. No class had prepared me

to answer you on the spot.

I don't know, I said.

 

The only words I remember saying

to you, and I still wish

I'd had another answer.

 

I want to apologize for being slender, for enjoying

the small number marking the seam

of my white pants. The littlest one was Madeline.

 

I wasn't brave enough to ask, Why does it matter?

I wish someone had asked you, How do you stay so thin?

 

But only you asked that, Alison. There are many ways

and internet manuals on how to refuse

what is offered. I wonder how you saw us:

 lithe as Botticelli nymphs?

We were tied to our reflections

 in the mirror's black bowl, our ideal selves

prancing by  like shy deer, our thumbs

tugging moist clay into handles and edges.

 

I want to scrape off

the seeming-perfection with my palette knife.

What else would have satisfied you?

 

When I heard you surrendered to a coma

after months, I knew you well enough

that it felt the natural conclusion

of your whodunnit, given the clues

 you scattered, a row of incongruities.

 

You leave me

wondering how I am also you,

my own failures standing out on the beach

like shells ripe for recollection, broken

crags of red and peach.

 

Tracing the memory of those years, you are my

polestar, Allison, your parallel steps

in the margins, your terror,

your question, and a confession I couldn't make.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paseo de las Luces

El Paso, TX

 

Cigarette wedged in a grate, brown bag ghosts by,

and above, sky flies, unscathed by time.

I understand the postage stamp’s allure:

“Paseo de las luces.” I want to go there. But who

has roped this thin, white-barked tree to a pole?

Backward glance from a businessman, this glance

is all we have, the wind is constant

now, cold, announcement from headquarters:

the city’s night. Pad-locked double doors,

the shadows of writing on writing. An escape-ladder

tattoos a wall, the sidewalk is closed

a few feet (Why the parenthesis?)

Crocodiles, wry and hungry,

A blue-green fence like a water-logged penny,

fantastical cage for grass.

A tree, veined and measured

by dead Christmas lights, the sound

of a man limping, a stress signal,

silhouettes of aging men on benches, waiting,

homeless or heading home, I can’t tell:

all are experts in biding time.

Moons of knees through blue jeans,

flat exposed feet, a dreaming statue offers

me his elbow, a giant wing, a dentist’s drill rises.

A sign for “ballroom” leading nowhere.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Theme Song

 

These superhero shoes are made of daisies

and the latest unbreakable glass.

I don’t believe headlines:

the first casualty of war is truth,

so I’ll sing my own.

 

You may have known me as

the girl at the party wearing

the Victorian lampshade, turning her head

between traps: that, or that.

 

A fisherman, with a net and cap, once drew

my constellated body from the river.  I emerged

a little shiftier. I don’t exist in the way you think I do:

every few nanoseconds

 

I’m new. Now I am the ripple

in the glass as you turn toward the boutique mirror

a third time. Now I like Japanese lanterns:

orange, white, pink. Sometimes metal filings flock

to my skin, and I am ground zero, off-limits,

 it’s best for everyone involved.

 

Now it’s time to teach the Pre-Raphaelites

a thing or two about beauty.

 

Occasionally I’ll find myself sitting

by the pool, eyeing a lavender mountain ridge,

not knowing how to help.

 

One time I appeared, smoking

in a bathroom mirror, seconds too late.

Bats Like Black Diamonds

 

I'd like to visit Carlsbad,

the cashier says, so

I tell her of bats, rushing

from the cave like black diamonds--

little does she know how long

I've kept this image without sharing,

but now I've done it: and swapping

postcard scenes, she tells me

about the full-moon

walk at White Sands: I can see

the red blankets spread on

the moon-blue sand, children

running-- but no camping anymore,

she says, and we hover

above the register,

my open handbag

useless. Then she tells me

she sweats

too much when she

visits her father back in Florida--

the desert changes you,

resets normal, she whispers, then

rips and hands me

the luminous receipt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Civilization in Ancient China

 

I.

I am testing your chemistry.

 

From jar, the word "full."

“Woman,” from releasing the arrow.

“Wife” from woman and broom.

“Man” to employ strength

in the fields.

 

I'm studying.

 

Ancient letter h breathes

inside “Buddha,” “siddhanta,”

and a single character will join

heart with dissatisfied,

water and cave.

 

 

II.

Then the celebrated gorges

of your river, cave paintings, pictograms

in their earliest stages, colours

I must imagine over mute

gray shadows. A list of your thousand

Buddha caves, names of twenty-three

out of thirty rulers unearthed

on indisputably genuine Anyang bones.

The codification of law, and you

 

shut me out at last. I leap

to the foot notes. Failing now,

wanting a story,

I open my book at random.

 

 

III.

In the north are tales

of bear-veneration and fox-myths,

sacred mountains, dog-magic and bronze

drums, but little is known of

the origin of the Chao people

and I want to cry. Less advanced

culturally, I know the book speaks

of me now, dynasties that could

not be unified, eunuchs who could reach

the emperor from his inner apartments.

First money from the skin of a certain

white deer. The prince, pushed

by his enemies,

committed suicide

or disappeared.

 

 

IV.

Footnote: someone ignored

a book.

There must be some mention.

 

V.

When I learned the word

misogyny I didn't understand

how it was possible. Was the word

real? Could there be a word

for what I hadn’t experienced?

"Have you met a misogynist?"

I asked my mother.

"Oh yes,” she promised.

I wondered at the man,

envisioned him as lonely

comic book villain.

Would I be exempt from

his hatred?

“Did he love

anyone?” I asked.

Without love, what was

the point?

Could the right woman

have sliced the belly?

I'm embarrassed now by the thought

that a woman (subject)

is the key to unlock

a man (object),

but is it true? There are locks.

The evidence

points to a settlement

of the remaining Romans on

the Old Silk Road, where

they married Chinese women and spent

the rest of their days.

 

 

VI.

Opening the brain

and extracting worms

can cure mu-sheng (a sort

of blindness).

 

VII.

My questions arc

across the sea,

"Heart-land" continent.

A vast, scattered literature

does exist,

never before digested into the compass of a single

book, built on a frame work

of questions.

The difficulty is

that the symbol

may, and every so often does,

have a remarkably wide

range of meanings.

 

 

VIII.

Image I want: I remember at last.

Image (did I imagine?) smiling up as I

peered down. Enough maps, I want

to see Cave no. 164, imagine

radiance of predominant

colors: black, white,

blue, green, gold. We meet

through time on this page

with its chalk-yellow border,

a peaceful empire between us.