My Memory Palace
by Robbi Nester
The ancients found remembering was simple
if they built in memory a place to stash
each name or fact. I have no need
of this old tactic. The building rose itself,
no mere mnemonic, without my effort
or my will, needing no intention on my part
to make it stand, secluded, a palace
or a prison on a street not quite the one I knew.
For years, I wore the windows watching out,
aspiring to the world beyond this
faded square of sky, though sometimes
it might hint at nascent drama:
coiled green hose a lurking
mamba. And there, the borders
of a country yet to be discovered:
the spot I scratched into the wallpaper
beside my bed, hoping if I made it
big enough I could climb through, like
the children in the books I read,
entering another world.
The clothes hang still, waiting forever
to be worn. And there, my mother’s vanity,
where I would sit and gaze into the glass
trying on her earrings and her pearls, her
broad-shouldered jackets, inspecting
photographs of relatives I’d never meet,
all this spreads before me, each room
multiplied in memory, a sheaf of dining rooms;
the living room in all its incarnations.
Here, the French provincial sideboard, gift
of a wealthy relative, rules the room;
and now, eclipsed—an avalanche of envelopes
encroaches. And now the roaches
and the rats, the bags of trash I helped to clear away.
No people walk these rooms; no conversations
can be heard. Harsh words and gentle ones
do not endure. Only the doors and windows
where I walk in dream and reverie
fan out like drafts, an intricate origami I could
never fathom. Now that these walls
are someone else’s legacy, I can never leave.
Robbi Nester lives and does yoga in Southern California and blogs at Shadow Knows.