Mandala of the Pile of Papers on the Dining Room Table

Star of pain in your neck: turn it side to side, 
	it glows in the dark all the same. Your poster 
		of the Golden Temple keeps falling down over your 

desk, and the latest baby announcement watches you 
	severely from the top of the pile, send the gift already, 
		says the baby, so new it hasn’t yet learned

how to smile. What is the proper order. How to
	master your materials. Annual reminder: protect yourself 
		from the flu, and a catalogue full of things you hate

and also want. You try to imagine spending thousands on
	the Lombok Bed, you stare at its hand-carved filigree, imported
		perhaps from its namesake island in Indonesia, site 

of a recent earthquake (death toll: twenty). Made in China,
	more likely. The enormous headboard resembles a flower-
		mandala but, I kid you not, painted white, and no illusory

demons wait here for the boho-chic sleeper to encounter 
	in dreams or visions. There will be no battle against the senses, 
		no progress from the simple periphery to the inner circle, 

which contains, in some traditions, the most fearsome opponents, 
	some dangerously beautiful, others just plain dangerous. The catalogue 
		bedroom is light-filled, tidy. A single houseplant hangs 

from an exposed beam, and a small green bottle of San Pellegrino 
	rests by the bedside. A room you float into, unencumbered by karma, 
		by want, by messy piles of paper. Mandala: a universe map. 

At its center, enlightenment, which is to say, freedom 
	from causing harm. Move through it by touch, by starlight.
		Demons may appear. Persevere. Don’t look them in the eye.

Chloe Martinez is a poet and scholar of South Asian religions. She is the author of Corner Shrine (Backbone Press, 2020), which won the 2019 Backbone Press Chapbook Competition, and Ten Thousand Selves (The Word Works, forthcoming 2021). Her poems appear or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Waxwing, The Common, and elsewhere. She teaches at Claremont McKenna College.