Down the Light, Down the Bed

HTML Poem by Mary McCray
Best viewed on a large screen with use of a mouse

(June 2020)

Stay after class
and write 50x
(I am writing it 50x):
I will give up this fight
I will give up this fight
I will give up this fight


I played with the idea
of your love
and your unlove


Send me back
You send me back
You send me

yes or no


me you me you
me you me


A man hears
what she wants to hear


the power
the powerlessness



a hidden box of mementos
a hidden box of messages
a hidden box of I love yous

You went and invoked the song a week ago
and I was back in the hallway. It was college then.

I was writing a poem for this Hornsby piano
and the squeeze in my chest
I've had since about 15.
I borrowed the cassette from Lisa
and played the piano parts over 50 times
while the tape went thin and the lines came out,
melancholie sentiment about a ghost piano
in an empty house.

Nearly thrity years later I'm back in the place,
no longer young or pretty, my hair long & gray,
and I feel a bit less real every day.

I didn't usually write there in the hallway
across from the dark bathroom,
the future like an ache in the mirror,
my heart in a canister at the sink.
I've laid down that thing so many times—
arranged on the mantle, beside the bread box,
out by the back door trash.
She's like a ghost who won't leave,
follows me into many rooms,
while the pen of my knife scratches this on the walls.

It's what a crazy man does.

And when the words say nothing
it's the notes, the goddamn notes
and their stumbling trills
stepping over me,
like something lost,
floating up the stairs and down.
"I can hear the piano playing
but I can't find it"

Why be so foolish
for so long?


click-click-click of time
click-click and scroll
down the line

Bruce Hornsby

And full of secret notes.


turned down light
turned down bed
turned down lane
turned down


Fold and return by post
Fold and return by Lisa
Fold and return by Bonnie bottle

float right
float left
notes float out the window


life's cruel little


the bats in the belfry,
the voices inside my head
(all of them a flighty me)


the chord is strong
the chords are strong
stronger than us


check this box if yes
check this box if no

PIANO PLAYER / Your heart is an old abandoned house / To me, / With the white wash that would be wailing— / But for me there is only / Silence. / I can hear / Where the cradle of the bannister / Holds its breath, / Splinters kissing my fingers / Under the halo / Floating in the lonely. / Only weariness trails in timidly, / Wandering the rooms / / Where there is dust choking what I mean to say. // I can hear the piano playing / But I can't find it. / And the trees are closing in / To hurry me through, / Shadows tripping my feet. / A forgotten chair / Leans into dilapidation, / Stoic and empty of invitation. / I can hear the echo of a perfect key, / But as I turn the corner / There is only the sound / Of the sun setting on the floorboards / And the faded flying curtains / Gesturing towards / That worn-out fallen door / Breaking me down.

(circa 1992)