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Key To The Highway

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.

—Mark Halliday

from Little Star, 1987
Lum Morrow / Quill, New York, NY

Copyright 1987 by Mark Halliday.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Lum Morrow / Quill from Little Star. Copyright 1987 by Mark Halliday. For further permissions information, contact Mark Halliday, 12750 Rich Lane, Athens, OH 45701.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Mark Halliday (1949- ) is the author of six poetry collections, including Keep This Forever (Tupelo Press, 2008). Halliday has won the Rome Fellowship in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Foundation Writer’s Award, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.

Learn more about Mark Halliday at The Poetry Foundation.