Jim Daniels | Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior

Jim Daniels
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Lake Superior
My children, five and four, built
cushioned forts from matching love seats
in our company apartment in Marquette
where we lived while I was on one
of many temporary assignments.
No wars, or even minor skirmishes
on their soft battlefield.

Each time we hit the beach
they collected a thick heft
of colored stones and carried back
pocket and handfuls to gently stack
outside our apartment like cushions.
Like the impossible eggs
of some extinct water-bird.

But when we took the boat tour
of The Pictured Rocks, and, stunned
by the land’s rugged rainbows jutting
into the storm of dark waters, I confessed
to dumping all his pretty rocks
back into the cold, cold water,
my son cried and hit me.


I didn’t understand then
how children need ballast,
to hold and wish on, and how water,
which can take away life,
brings all things to it.

Oh, the daily casualties stagger us now,
the same list of our four names,
over and over. It’s not enough
to just say they are teenagers.
I should have let them keep the rocks.

How odd it must have looked,
a grown man throwing rock after rock
from two large canvas sacks
back into the sea, like God’s
quality control inspector.

They do not even recall
their weighed-down comfort —
what would not break,
would not split in two.

Date of publication: 
February 22, 2014


Jim Daniels’ latest book of poems, Birth Marks, was published by BOA Editions in 2013 and was selected as a Michigan Notable Book. His next book of short fiction, Eight Mile High, will be published by Michigan State University Press in 2014. A native of Detroit, Daniels teaches at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.