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Mills, David

Mills, David


David Mills has an MA from New York University. He has received Breadloaf, Henry James, ArtsLink, Brio and Pan-African Literary Forum fellowships; recorded his poetry on RCA records; performed a one-person show of the works of Langston Hughes; and been featured in the PBS documentary Slammin. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Ploughshares, jubilat, Fence, Rattapallax, Hanging Loose, Live from the Nuyorican Poets Café, The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, Black Renaissance Noir, Reverie and Jubilation. His poetry has been displayed at the Venice Biennale and Germany’s Documenta international art exhibition. He wrote the audio tour for Deborah Willis’s national exhibition of “Reflections in Black: 100 Years of Black Photography.” The Julliard School of Drama commissioned him to write a play about the life of Dr. King.

The Empty Hand

(After Christopher Carter’s Belted 2-Star)


There’s red, there’s white, there’s green and brown. No bronze

to wrap around a nation’s narrow waist.

Those are not twinkles it’s a stars kiai.

An empty hand can vacate space with space.

The idea is to marshal art with grace.

I gaze and think of DeCarava’s photos,

whose camera pledged allegiance to the groovy,

who captured bronze celestial bodies. Snapped

some hipsters like a stars so hai karate.

Two points look like one dancer’s tilted shoulders.

Another flag its title spoke of bronze.

But stars of aqua, chocolate filled its frame.

This name’s the same but here the color’s gone;

yet stars of bronze still blaze ‘til leather’s worn.


The City’s Suit/One World Trade Center

Sixty                           Minutes


Baychester to Wall, Truman

 High to pinstriped power. I worked there.

 On the way, I’d bop through subway cars

 as if they were Parisian runways: shell-top

Adidas, mock necks and Sergio Valentes made

me cuter than I was. Head to toe, my reflection

stretched, Sugar Daddy yummy, in straphanger poles.

Seated, my fingers peekabooed Senor Gonzalez’

vocabulary sheet for honors Spanish: olvidar

to forget; vestir-to dress; mirar—to look—

at the pretty Puertorriquenas swiveling off the iron

horse at 149th Street. On the subway map, the Bronx

looked like a pelvis, the “5” train aluminum urine.

The ‘vator would wobble and zoom to 93: red

numbers climbing, insisting: gravity’s a fib. Hired

help—supply boy, water boy, ball boy, boy toy,

hear me boy—forced to wear a cloth jacket, push

a cart, deliver Paper mate pens and IBM Selectric

typeballs: silver golf globes with braille. I left

legal pads’ lined sunlight on Cherrywood desks

for Brown, Wood’s partners—white men special-

-izing in Blue Sky. The office a nonagon,

its dark hall: a carpeted labyrinth. Corporate

law’s minotaur—half-bull, half-bear—lurking

in the shadows. Me: Negro Theseus. Thread

from my cloth jacket, unraveling: a guide

through blind alleys back to the supply room.

When the firm nodded at eight, I made copies

on a Xerox 10 series, legal or letter, feeder

or glass, toner and ink jet, dry writing the ditto, hot

paper spit from asthmatic, white elephants,

collating: the sound a bulldog lapping up

water in that steel and glass castle.

From a Sharp 9000’s thumping, silver suitcase: ‘BLSchief

rocker, Frankie Crocker, played “The Message:” Don’t

push me cause I’m close to the edge. Les—plump

as dumplings night manager—made me lug 15

cartons of Xerox paper from the freight elevator

to his fiefdom, shadowing me with that aria

of buttons and knobs as if he were a black

Atlas with Night Fevers on his clavicle.

(Broken glass everywhere…) The tweeters’

chrome hearts home to my face’s reflection,

so leaving, I’d hum: I’m trying not

to lose my head, pressing “1” as if

this building were a three-piece suit

and this the last button to be fastened.

The Dream Detective, StrawGate Books, 2010

The Sudden Country, MainStreet Rag, 2013

Hughes/Diop Award

2012 Main Street Rag Prize, Finalist