Arise By Any Other Name

The Ill Considered Architecture Of Her Memory Palace

When I was 12, I began building it; lying in bed staring at the ceiling and digging it out of the ground. Not unzealously but with little of the fervor that I would later show.

By the time I turned 22, it was already endlessly tall and endlessly deep. So, excepting a parabola into which the sharp lip of the hole wrangled the light, it was endlessly dark, too. From above, it was an eye, although with the top of the tower–which served as the pupil–bright, and the surrounding pit of the iris an impenetrable blackness. It stared threateningly at the sky, and I felt that I too wanted nothing more than to make enemies with something vast: something that, no matter where I went, I could raise a trembling fist and curseful voice at.

And, yes, I was proud. I had made the tower from nothing. Made, from the uninspired flatness of the land, a thing which spiraled endlessly downwards into the pulsing, preternatural organs of the lower-earth and then back up: I had been icarus of the moles flirting with, instead of the sun, the burning core of the earth (and not so tragic and not so incinerated).

Though to be fair I never "made" anything at all–in the strictest sense–just excised, excised until something that was already there emerged: which is not profound, being simply sculpture, which is not profound. Not that profundity–excepting its synonymity with depth–was ever my ambition. Pragmatism, pragmatism was the law I lived by–that subcutaneous weasel in all of us that breaks our bones to make our bones harder to break (and, yes, it can be funny how often we are looking for opportunities to break and consequently for permission to reassemble, perhaps better this time).

But yes, you may not believe me, but pragmatic is how I imagined the structure: the rooms cool in the deep earth, a darkness my more neglected, undomesticated memories might find coaxing. And if the path between rooms was slightly longer than necessary, then I would walk slightly longer. And impressed, perhaps too-early and thoroughly, by comments on the merits of walking from Austen (Room 237 > dining room > my father's placemat), Bashō (Room 249 > cuttlery drawer > forks), (etc.), I did not consider this altogether disagreeable.

But as I stored my life, digging new floors—lower-tier stories—into the ground; as I carved, by mind-hand, the outside, the inside, the two spiraling stairs, and the rooms sat like petals but with their beauty inside; as I placed the lines of a poem on the ribs of a radiator, or a birthday in yet another bedside drawer, the place became unwieldy. And every time I added a room, I would have to add the time to go down to the bottom of the now deeper tower and the time to go up to the now higher room. And every time I added a room, my more archaic storings–though unmoved–were further away.

Aside—The Beautiful Horror Image

They are changing the roads, they are making them all longer, I remember my Grandfather telling me (Room 1243 > bedroom > bottom bedside drawer).

Though now, I think, simply, that a road is endogeny to what it passes by.

And yet the roads did simply get longer, what with the first floor constantly becoming the second floor becoming the third floor: fn = fn-1+1, it was admittedly messy.

It was inconvenient and it was messy, but I kept it: it was also mine, and this seemed necessary, and I had built enough of it, by then, to love it; and it was still, and would remain at least for a time, usable. And I told myself I would stop adding rooms, stop remembering new things, but this is like telling pragmatism to stop breaking our bones.

Besides, I could still set off early in the morning and by late afternoon return to the view of something cherished & sit in the small wooden chair, always in the same angle of each disk-like room, & admire the things I'd stored. I could still hold them in my hands and think: "Ah this,.. oh this,.. this, is worth remembering". I could, for instance, hold a spatula up to my eyes and remember nothing spatula: only what I had made it signify. Imagine holding anything and feeling not immediately, not primarily, not ever, its function, not even a curiosity for function; feeling instead simply and entirely a rented piece of you resonating to the rest of you. And so I held the things strangely. A spatula by the head, a cup held upside down and clamped by the opening. But there wasn't anything strange or unsettling about this: it felt beautiful, and would have been beautiful to be seen.

And I would feel this in, and I would like most of all, the higher rooms: in which I would find the dustiest memories; and what I liked most of all was the final room, at the very end, the very top of the tower.

For a long while, I could still reach it. And I remember still my many visits. I remember them vividly. But I cannot, can't ever, see inside.

Because all the while, as I grew, the tower did too. And time, the structure of the place & the structure of my mind made more & more unrememberable; not forgotten just too far away; abandoned in distant disk-shaped rooms, at the top of the bottom of two sets of unending stairs.

. . . .

I am getting older. Now, when I finish walking down the outer ring of steps and reach the open courtyard from which the tower stretches into the smallening donut of open sky–ever taller but never rising–, I stare towards the many dark windows: they look like the tower is being scaled by a fleet of black monochromatic paintings, a spell against interpretation (Room 3041 > living room > top right carpet corner). I look at them—hard—like they might let something slip, before walking into the tower. Into the slow-turning spiral stairs. Into the endless unchanging image of steps.

Every room I can reach is too close to be meaningful.

. . . .

It is a blatant neglect of my potential. The very length of my life putting things out of reach.

Tsk tsk.

Very frustrating.

I have started to draw the tower: a map of it in my room, straight on the wall, but I can't seem to remember it well.

. . . .

The first time I try to leap across, To jump the gap to the tower’s apex, I fall.

But hold on, hold on... leap across,.. leap across?! you might say, ignited with incredulity. Is this not a thing of the mind, is this not a place where the air might have some purchase, where arbitrary points of origin might be allowed, and where bridges could be fashioned—as you so arrogantly put it, by mind-hand—from the edge of the pit to the top of the tower?

What ghastly unimaginable corners of the globe behoove these horsemen of sudden constraint?

And besides, why is leaping so precarious, so bold-you must admit though it was not explicit, that boldness was implied, no?-if it is but a leap of the mind, the gallop of the ground cerebral, the impact imaginary.

And all I can respond is that life is not a poem memorized, where the most ancient lines establish themselves most thoroughly becoming almost necessary precursors of what follows; that life is instead the leaves of a tree being constantly lifted out of reach, from the pitiable parabola of our growth and then ungrowth. That there is a reason all I could ever do is remove and try to remember. That if I could do it differently I would, that it is insulting that you find my limitations so laughably ill-considered, which I can confidently imagine is something you, in turn, have not considered; being acute, exact, but perhaps, ultimately, unkind.


And so I have tried to leap and am falling. And at the start of my fall, I glimpse through the window of the final room which passes too quickly. Is nothing more than a single image, a single sheet of light: a blue deep enough to kill you, but then I think maybe I've turned, in flight, on my back. Maybe what I am seeing is the sky, the endless sheets of it passing over me, as though I am in a washing machine with only things that are blue, & maybe the sky is always blue enough to do us harm, but biding its time, waiting patiently, and I raise my fist and tremble it. I tremble, rageful, at the sky.

But by then I am tumbling too-quickly, seeing frames of memories, in the apertures of room openings. The slitted window-reel:

- She thinks her x to be, not be stradled by Squire Root B. B. (King), usurped by forestry (à la Macbeth). All this occurring over 2 A.M—the hour of maximum bullshit, - Might Venus 'Erself—Model, Jezebel, Saint—understand Nero's (posturing), - Once a coordinate system is established for a shot, camera ∈ [-π/2, π/2], - The proposed existential mechanism of snail as self-eraser,

. . . .

My husband finds me between the beds in our room in a slight pool of head-blood mumbling "Mr. blue sky bring me a dream bah bah bah..." the "bah's slowly morphing into bleets.

. . . .

When we return from the hospital, he asks what I was thinking.

"not thinking, remembering," I say, which he expresses is "not particularly comforting," which he expresses is in fact "supremely discomforting".

We sit at the kitchen table. It is late and we are waiting for the water to boil. I have my hand on my cheek and my elbow on the table and I'm thinking about the tower and the necessary velocity required for me to make it to the top floor assuming no drag, etc.

I watch him pour the hot water into mugs. I watch the hot water pour and the angle it makes.

Things are always going down and all they can do is be encouraged to travel, against the overwhelming pressure to fall, sideways; and I watch the teabag bleed into the water.

. . . .