Man with Child, May
Under deep gray thunderless skies
a man cradles an infant to his bare chest
on the long swoop of spotty grass
in the tiny park across the street.Pre-dawn—the child silent, the father
silent, bare feet bending
tender grass, the world’s mouth
gently enclosing them.I can’t say what the three deer
on the edge of the clearing think, alert
at the wet rustle of dew. Nor the man,
idling down the block, ploppinga paper onto every porch.
I’m going to say the father
has taken the child outside
to let the mother sleep.I have stood where the man
has stood. Today at the window,
I watch the green unfolding dawn,
waiting for my own man-child
who did not come home last night.Sleepless swatch of sweat-thick hair,
bristle beard, pale, tattooed bicep,
beltless jeans-sag. The child?
Blue blanket and a light tuft of hair.Its warm breath
against the man’s shoulder
thaws the goddamned world.
Copyright © 2018 by Jim Daniels
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
Jim Daniels’s books have won the Milton Kessler Award, two Poetry Gold Medals in the Independent Publisher Book Awards, the Tillie Olsen Prize, Blue Lynx Prize, Brittingham Prize, and others. His fifth book of fiction, Eight Mile High, was a Michigan Notable Book. The End of Blessings, his fourth short film, appeared in numerous film festivals. He has been featured on Prairie Home Companion, Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, in Billy Collins’ Poetry 180 anthologies, and Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry series. A native of Detroit, Daniels is the Thomas Stockham University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.
“As prolific as he is talented, Jim Daniels gets my vote for ‘the hardest-working man in poetry.’ His poems are honest, straightforward, full of insight, wit, and good will, and grounded firmly in the human and humane. The Middle Ages finds him back at work in the mines of daily life where, as he has done for years, he extracts, for our enjoyment, nugget after nugget, gem after gem.”
—Charles Harper Webb
“Jim Daniels is a masterpoet of dry wit and skeptical whimsy as he navigates The Middle Ages in his latest collection of poems. Here are meditations on fatherhood and fathering, on growing older—but not necessarily wiser—on marriage and loss, surgery and depression. Humor is a survival strategy for this poet, and he employs it with panache and empathy, remembering the past but not deifying it, looking to the future with rue and a touch of resignation. Daniels’ poems take everything in—all our foibles and failings, our loves and refusals—and make all of it memorable, tinged with regret, but still ours, still meaningful, still worth the work and grit of poetry.”
“Rueful and sweet, these poems remind us that it’s the dark aspect of life that makes the bright so lovely we can hardly bear it. Many of the most moving lines are about teenagers, clumsy, speechless 14- and 15-year-olds who will one day be as wise and compassionate as the poet himself. Actually, these poems tell us we’re all teens, in a way, all growing daily into a beauty uniquely our own.”