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
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: ‘BLS ‘chief
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
2012 Main Street Rag Prize, Finalist