Time in a Brown House

By Mark Halliday b. 1949 Mark Halliday
Sam paused on the stairs. He had forgotten a thing.
In Leland’s room a copy of Thomas Merton lay on the floor.
The air was full of gnats of possibility. What was the story?
Sam looked at the clock twice. The day was dropping
softly away while Sam’s sneakers made the wood stairs creak.
The wood was sure it was wood. Alice got home from the store.
The bags had to be unloaded as the day went and went.
Then the sundown kitchen grew quiet.
Sam crossed his legs one way, then the other way. He had chosen
purple corduroys. They were pants of the day; one possibility.
On the tilted table sat the damaged typewriter.
What about Thomas Merton? Did he know the central story?
Someone was quietly reading by the fireplace but not Sam.
Next day there was badminton with the troubled carpenter
and the story of an awful egg salad, causing laughter;
but Sam had forgotten some thing. Then Alice brought in
the brownies and minor pleasure colored the house
and there went the evening. J.J. came downstairs
all gleamy from her bath. She had three reasons to get downtown fast.
Sam picked up a novel by Sukenick. The clue must be nearby.
Between Sam and the page swarmed the gnats of possibility.
Leland stowed his bicycle in the basement and came upstairs
with a point about capitalism. Look at the time said someone.
Where was J.J. now? Where was the story? Under the red chair
lay the newspaper whose relevance was all mystery or
not mystery enough. Then Alice went out to see a movie.
Some man meets some woman with big eyes on a jet
and changes his whole life for her, disastrously but thrillingly.
Alice told about it briefly, and went to make tea. Sam paused
on the hard wooden stairs. J.J. was gone. She was gone.
Leland was eating yogurt at midnight. The whole brown house
was floating, gliding very smoothly for some reason
with Sam not clear whether the gliding was a story
and if so was it central and was it his?

Mark Halliday, "Time in a Brown House" from JAB. Copyright © 2002 by Mark Halliday.  Reprinted by permission of The University of Chicago Press.

Source: JAB (The University of Chicago Press, 2002)

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Poet Mark Halliday b. 1949

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

Subjects Living, Parenthood, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Activities, Indoor Activities, Relationships, Home Life

 Mark  Halliday


Poet Mark Halliday 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). Influenced by New York School poets Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara, Halliday writes disarmingly accessible and . . .

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SUBJECT Living, Parenthood, The Mind, Time & Brevity, Activities, Indoor Activities, Relationships, Home Life

POET’S REGION U.S., Midwestern

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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