There you are, at the gate of the memory palace
underneath the rusted teeth of the portcullis,
your hand raised in a puzzling gesture—
is it farewell, come here, get back, no blame,
or are you just trying to hitch a ride? But I’ve seen
that gesture when you sleep, as if you were saying
to someone, on the one hand . . . on the other hand.
Here is a memory to store in the palace—
You and I at the circus. The arena is dark
except for one blue spotlight. In it, a clown
stands before a table. On the table an array,
crystal wine glasses filled with different levels
of water. He’s dressed in white with a conical hat,
tear marks on one cheek. With a wet finger,
he plays music that was once forbidden
because it made musicians lose their minds.
There is a blank look in his eyes and he performs
perfectly, as if he were a mechanical clown.
Now look up, the lady on the trapeze
is dropping large blue crepe-paper flowers.
Maybe the palace is the size of a dollhouse
and my eye at the window is the eye of a giant.
Maybe the palace is in my chest and my heart
is beating too loud inside. I remember
when I woke but was still asleep and saw
my chest rising and falling on its own
and then I accidentally rolled out of my body
and there were two of me lying side by side.
In an alcove shaped like a scallop shell I’ve placed
a list of the way lovers have said goodbye.
Developer fluid heated up, passed off
as consommé, is a standout. As is GOODBYE
written in shaving cream on the dusty windows
of a row of abandoned cars in Baja. Just as I begin
to suspect what is wrong with this picture
I notice how lightly you step over the grillwork
of the oubliette, that terrible lace under which
men are forgotten. You raise your hand again
and now I understand that gesture—
it’s how you erase the distant mountains,
the palace, the sky, everything.