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Published: Thu Jul 1 2004
Eva Lundsager, Were now like (detail), 2021, oil on canvas
A Night in 2029

I could live to be eighty and one night in 2029
stand leaning on the table in my kitchen
hit suddenly with a vision of the kitchen at 64 Elmgrove
one night in 1973 where I sat with Laird Holby
and he read aloud a passage from Howards End

I could look for that passage and not be sure
but it said something about music and I think implied
a way to live for the glory of spirit without becoming absurd—

hit with that vision in 2029 I stand eighty years old
feeling I might wobble and fall and break my arm or hip
not because of ordinary weakness but because of suddenly knowing
that except for being an old man I am still nothing
but that young guy with wild hair, listening thoughtfully to Laird.

I could live to be eighty and I guess I have to wish for that
but I’m afraid of the minute in 2029
when I wobble in the sudden wind that blows
down the long shady corridor from 1973
when I suspected the reward for listening thoughtfully would be
to always have a delicious great chance to be
the beautiful understander
for whom everything including time makes good sense.

Mark Halliday teaches at Ohio University. His fourth book of poems, JAB, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2002. (updated 2004)

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