Memory Palace

Grace Lau


Here are the stairs
you must ascend
to enter, as if every Sunday were practice
for heaven. And that
is the cold steel
rail my grandmother gripped
as she climbed each steep step
with laboured breath

This is classroom 1
where I learned how to dress
a wall in a new coat
of paint. We freed it
from decades of graffiti, love notes,
and sin. A baptism
in Sherwin Williams off-white.

Beside it, classroom 2
where a girl cried
in the middle of Sunday School
overcome at the age of twelve
with so much love for God
that I thought I was broken
before I’d grown up.
I don’t know if I will ever
love anything this much.

Touch this piano
where my mother played
like she’d found Eden
and here is where my father stood
as they made a home
for their song.

Upstairs is the bulletin board
of everyone’s names and
how much they’d given.
Winner gives all.
A tithe for a prize.
My brother and I
pored over it on tippy toes
looking for our parents’ names, proof
that we belong.
We’re pulling our own weight, see
there’s a place for us
in God’s house.

That is classroom 3
where we put up gold stars
on the wall
for every Bible verse
we memorized
and I made myself a universe.

Here is where I descended
the steps for the last time,
where I buried
in the earthly clay
what cannot touch
me anymore


Grace (she/her) is a Hong-Kong-born, Chinese-Canadian writer living in Toronto. Her debut collection of poetry, The Language We Were Never Taught to Speak, is forthcoming in May 2021 from Guernica Editions. Her work is published or forthcoming in Grain Magazine, Contemporary Verse 2, Frontier Poetry, Arc Poetry, and elsewhere. Find her on Twitter at @thrillandgrace.

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