“The Grand Design” by Jim Daniels

Jim Daniels


The Millau Viaduct … a cable-stayed bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn near Millau in Southern France … is the tallest bridge in the world … It was formally inaugurated on 14 December 2004 … The bridge has been consistently ranked as one of the great engineering achievements of all time.

Legend has it that Roquefort cheese was discovered when a youth, eating his lunch of bread and ewes’ milk cheese, saw a beautiful girl in the distance. Abandoning his meal in a nearby cave, he ran to meet her. When he returned a few months later, the mold … had transformed his plain cheese into Roquefort … In 1411 Charles VI granted a monopoly for the ripening of the cheese to the people of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon as they had been doing for centuries.


How many times have you had the time
of your life?

I just had shoulder surgery
so I could play softball again.

Does that make me a seventh-day

What would Jesus do?
He would’ve had the surgery.

* * *

My wife and I … are you bored already?
The moon and the mad pencil sharpener—

is that better? The happy moon sharpener
and his gardener sidekick, Haymonkey.

Take one for pain. Take two for no pain.
Take three and call me in mourning.

Hike. Call me now and skip the middle part.
My wife and I visited the tallest suspension bridge

in the world on the way to visit the Roquefort
cheese caves in Southern France.

The sound-and-light show gave us the authentic
legend of the caves: the boy, the girl, the forgotten lunch,

the mold. Ah, the mold! Excuse me, I have to put
my pain in the freezer. I’ll shoulder the blame

for that one. Sometimes it’s enough to know
our old lovers are still out there.

We’d prefer not to see a recent picture
or hear about their cute children

or their recent shoulder surgery
or their lifetime of success

on the softball diamond
or the diamond futures trade.

There are only so many things
you can blame on pain pills.

While I was at the freezer, I got a lime popsicle.
Lime popsicles are the best.

I wonder what they put in them,
lime or something?

* * *

Sometimes, it’s that simple. My wife and I
stood on an overlook admiring the bridge—tall,

yes, very tall! But with a grace we could not
mock or ignore. The wind up there so strong

that we laughed, and it swallowed our laughter.
Blown backwards with the other tourists,

we all struggled up the scraggly path,
as if we were not tourists, just old friends

trying to learn a new game.
We stood at the top while a new old friend

took our picture, clinging to each other
after 24 years of marriage. Behind us

as beautiful and frightening as the imagination’s
wedding dress, the bridge stood.

* * *

I believe in the gooey mess of soft cheese,
the life-line of blue mold, the white sea.

Mold is bad. Mold is good. Free samples,
and we’re digging in while behind glass

Rochefort wheels are rotated by special
Rochefort rotators who know at birth just how far

to turn them. It appears I’ve already
forgotten how to spell it. I’m blaming the drugs

again. It’s hard to be patient. To be a patient.
To tell the truth so that it matters. So that

someone doesn’t actually shame you
by calculating your batting average.

Thunder in the distance. Thunder is
the distance. We learn it once.

We learn it over and over. We are tested
on our knowledge. And we fail. Blame it

on lime popsicles. The smell after rain
might be the closest thing to heaven.

But how many other things have been
the closest things to heaven? Twenty-four

years ago, I forgot my sandwich in a cave.
Blown backwards, I’m having the time of my life

once again. Once again, and always. The stitches
will dissolve, or die trying. How many times

have you died trying?

from Rattle #43, Spring 2014
Tribute to Love Poems


Jim Daniels: “I was born in Detroit and live in Pittsburgh, and my writing has been shaped by those two places and the people I love who live there. Even the poem published here, which takes place in France. My latest book is titled Birth Marks—we carry those marks, those places, with us wherever we go.” (web)

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