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My Moral Life

Two years hence. When I'm ready.
After one more set of poems
about my beautiful confusion.
After I've read Anna Karenina
and Don Quixote
and the first volume at least of Proust
and one big novel by Thomas Mann—
say three years. Three years hence:

after I've written an essay about the word "enough"
and after I've done something so delectable
weaving together phrases from Henry James and Bob Dylan
and after I've written an amazing meditation on Luis Buñuel
and after I've spent a month in Frankfort, Michigan
being very real and thoughtful and full of perspective
and fresh cherry pie
then—
then—

in four years at the most—
I see it there ahead of me casting a silver shadow
back upon me now, bathing me in its promise,
validating the self that will arrive at it
in four years or less (maybe just two years?)...
Glimpsing it there is sometimes like already living it
almost and feeling justifiably proud.
Water pollution and toxic waste and air pollution;
the poverty of black people in my city;
the nuclear arms industry; in my moral life these things
are not just TV, they push my poems to the edge of my desk,
they push Henry James into a sweet corner,
they pull me to meetings and rallies and marches
and meetings and rallies and marches. 
There I am in a raincoat on the steps of City Hall
disappointed by the turnout but speaking firmly
into the local news microphone about the issue,
the grim issue.
When I'm ready.
Four years from today!
Silver shadow

—Mark Halliday

from Tasker Street, 1992
University of Massachusetts Press

Copyright 1992 by Mark Halliday.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of University of Massachusetts Press from Tasker Street. Copyright 1992 by Mark Halliday. For further permissions information, contact Ralph J. Kaplan, Permissions Manager, University of Massachusetts Press, PO Box 429, Amherst, MA 01004.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Poet Mark Halliday (1949- ) earned a BA and an MA from Brown University, and a PhD from Brandeis University. Halliday has published several collections of poetry, including Little Star (1987), selected for the National Poetry Series; Tasker Street (1992), winner of the Juniper Prize; Jab (2002); and Keep This Forever (2008).

Learn more about Mark Halliday at The Poetry Foundation.