The memory palace is a mnemonic device introduced in ancient Roman and Greek rhetorical treatises (in the anonymous Rhetorica ad Herennium, Cicero’s De Oratore, and Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria). The items to be remembered in this mnemonic system are mentally associated with specific physical locations.[1] The method relies on memorized spatial relationships to establish, order and recollect memorial content

“The title Das Schloss may be translated as ‘the castle’ or ‘the palace,’ but the German word is a homonym that can also refer to a lock.” — Wikipedia entry on Kafka’s The Castle


In her memory palace there are no walls—
No exterior that she knows. It might
be a cube. She walks down carpeted halls—
a bit tilted, lined with naked frames. Light
is always on the green side of yellow.
She never knows where she should look. Her eyes
refuse to stay on the bright line that shows
where those nice people walk—her wild feet try
to wear another path. She can’t see
(she must see) what’s in front of her. She flees
straight ahead—her fingers brushing blank walls
like doll’s heads. She’s always afraid, but fear
is a childhood friend, as fragile and small
as her smile. Each door hides a cold mirror.


In the round rooms she wears her party dress
and buckled shoes that sparkle. Above her
there could be a spire or a turret. The next
two rooms were often dark and her mother
haunted them slyly—with whispering dust
she could never wipe off empty pictures.
To keep her nice clothes clean, she’d learned to twist
her body between sheet-covered high chairs
awkwardly. Her stiff legs and angled arms
often pushed her against the smoky forms
that kept all the rooms as formal as dress
uniforms—straight-backed as toy soldiers—
Not the round rooms—they were always a mess—
No, those dark ones, lined up neat as folders.


In those long corridors her feet made sounds
like small kisses and built static power
along her fingers. When she reached the round
brass knobs—not touching yet—just unrolling
unpolished nails towards one—crisp blue sparks
tried to jump out—tense as laughing flowers.
So many doors stayed closed. She thinks they know things
about her that they cannot know (and must
never tell). She carries a glass of dark
milk like a candle, pretending to see
lost faces in veined mirrors—not quite ghosts—
faded pictures—sisters she didn’t meet,
lost uncles. She refused to lift her feet.
She like their sound and all her light was free.


In her palace windows open from one
room into another. Some glass was smoked
by sin. Some was shattered, leaded—not stained
but laced—seams held cracked glass like rain.
Her eyes see through it but she cannot look—
Classrooms haunted by mechanical nuns—
Dry laundries—broken playrooms. Memory
is her house, littered with blue-dusted guns
and pages from unwritten books. All drains
are blocked. Air is heavy with words in strange
alphabets. She will (someday) learn to read
them. She’s certain they’re prayers and she needs
to pray for a road out of memories.
She’s afraid of all the rooms that remain.


In her lost wing, stairways were cased in glass.
When shrewd feet led her there, she’d carve her name
in dust with her pointed nails. No one ever saw
her demon messages. She posted blame
for crimes she committed in lives long past—
before she even knew there were imperfect laws
to be broken. This wing stored the penance
she would perform later, and each sentence
she gave herself would get lost under fresh dust.
Her dreams were like that, too—always unlaced
but hidden. She would wake up to adjust
her loose soul before repainting her face
on the mirror. She would close the black doors
and drop the wing’s keys in an arcane drawer.