Mark Halliday

I remember riding somewhere in a fast car

with my brother and his friend Jack Brooks

and we were listening to Layla & Other Love Songs

by Derek & the Dominos. The night was dark,

dark all along the highway. Jack Brooks was 

a pretty funny guy, and I was delighted

by the comradely interplay between him and my brother,

but I tried not to show it for fear of inhibiting them.

I tried to be reserved and maintain a certain

dignity appropriate to my age, older by four years.

They knew the Dominos album well having played the cassette

many times, and they knew how much they liked it.

As we rode on in the dark I felt the music was,

after all, wonderful, and I said so

with as much dignity as possible. “That’s right,”

said my brother. “You’re getting smarter,” said Jack.

We were listening to “Bell Bottom Blues”

at that moment. Later we were listening to

“Key to the Highway,” and I remembered how

my brother said, “Yeah, yeah.” And Jack sang

one of the lines in a way that made me laugh.

I am upset by the fact that that night is so absolutely gone.

No, “upset” is too strong. Or is it.

But that night is so obscure—until now

I may not have thought of that ride once

in eight years—and this obscurity troubles me.

Death is going to defeat us all so easily.

Jack Brooks is in Florida, I believe,

and I may never see him again, which is

more or less all right with me; he and my brother

lost touch some years ago. I wonder

where we were going that night. I don’t know;

but it seemed as if we had the key to the highway.

…from Mark Halliday‘s poetry collection Little Star (William Morrow & Co., 1987), available at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Mark Halliday is an American poet, professor and critic. He is author of five collections of poetry, most recently Keep This Forever (Tupelo Press, 2008). His honors include serving as the 1994 poet in residence at The Frost Place, inclusion in several annual editions of The Best American Poetry series and of the Pushcart Prize anthology, receiving a 2006 Guggenheim Fellowship, and winning the 2001 Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.