Today I saw a bespectacled young student

standing on wet grass beneath trees

lining the edge of the doctor’s parking lot

guide a stranger’s minivan backing up

directly into a giant orange traffic cone.

The boy was out of his league. His league

had finished for the season. His league

was not the League of Women Voters.

His league was still taking driving lessons

and looking at their sad pimply faces

in the mirror. The driver was following

his instructions in her mirror. When she stopped,

the cone tipped halfway over, then landed

back upright when she pulled forward and away.


Do we ever get it right, the backing up, pulling

forward? The trusting? The boy’s braces gleamed

in the fall sunshine, laughing aloud as he caught my eye,

shrugging the beautiful shrug of the miraculous,

bringing leaves down around him.


Jim Daniels’ next books of poems, Rowing Inland, Wayne State University Press, and Street Calligraphy, Steel Toe Books, will be published in 2017. His previous book, Birth Marks, was a Michigan Notable Book, the recipient of the Milton Kessler Poetry Book Award, and the Poetry Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards. His fifth book of short fiction, Eight Mile High, was a Michigan Notable Book and a finalist for the Paterson Fiction Prize. He has received the Brittingham Prize for Poetry, the Blue Lynx Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts. His poems have appeared in the Pushcart Prize and Best American Poetry anthologies. Daniels is the Thomas Stockham University Professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University.

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