“Legs” by Mark Halliday
Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for American High Schools, Hosted by Billy Collins, U.S. Poet Laureate, 2001-2003
In the last year of my marriage, among a hundred other symptoms I wrote a poem called "The Woman across the Shaft"—she was someone I never met—she had long bare legs on a summer night when she answered the phone in her kitchen and lifted her legs to the table while she talked and laughed and I tried to listen from my window across an airshaft between buildings and watched her legs. I doubt she was beautiful but her legs were young and long and she laughed on the phone while I sat in my dark of dissolving faith and I tried to capture or contain the unknown woman in a poem: the real and the ideal, the mess of frayed bonds versus untouched possibility, so forth. Embarrassed now I imagine a female editor who received "The Woman across the Shaft" as a submission to her magazine—the distaste she felt— perhaps disgust she felt—I imagine her grimacing slightly as she considers writing "Pathetic" on the rejection slip but instead lets the slip stay blank and then returns to another envelope from a writer she has learned to trust, crossing her long legs on her smart literary desk.
from Selfwolf, 1988
Ohio University, Athens, OH
Copyright 1988 by Mark Halliday.
All rights reserved.
Reprinted by permission of Oberlin College Press from FIELD: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. Copyright 1988 by Mark Halliday. For further permissions information, contact Mark Halliday, 12750 Rich Lane, Athens, OH 45701.
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.