Mr. Mills holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College. He’s published four collections: The Dream Detective, The Sudden Country, After Mistic and the bestselling Boneyarn (New York Slavery poems). His poems have appeared in Ploughshares, Brooklyn Rail, Colorado Review, Crab Orchard, Review Jubilat, Callaloo, Obsidian, The Common, Brooklyn Rail and Fence. He has also received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, Breadloaf and The American Antiquarian Society. He lived in Langston Hughes’ landmark Harlem home for three years and wrote the audio script for Macarthur-Genius-Award Winner Deborah Willis’ curated exhibition: Reflections in Black:100 Years of Black Photography. The Juilliard School of Drama commissioned a play by Mr. Mills. He has recorded his poetry on ESPN, RCA Records.
Indeed, I tremble for my country when I reflect that G-d is just. —Thomas Jefferson
Along the city’s jawline by the wharf where a peck of slaves were auctioned, Claus might have
heard tell how Robin sunk a penny- knife into the conch below his owner’s shoulder. Now barefoot
he is stripped to the waist spread- eagle, bound to a wagon wheele: spokes versed in grass and its green
obedience; mud’s scorched metamorphosis; the way snow delivers news piecemeal from the heavens. Limbs stretched
slowly rotated on that wheel, Claus absorbs the dust, the turns, the deliveries: each journey’s leg and arm. Executioners
seldom traffic in compassion; this one punishes Claus bottom
First a sledgehammer rains
on his shins—Jesus have mercy, he screams and rotates—until they snap between gaps of the wheel;
a wooden cudgel sings to his kneecaps—he howls rotates— ‘til they shatter …
Even the chalky taunting throng winces. Then the thunder of an iron bar’s administered to his forearms
—he shrieks, rotates— ‘til they’re smashed….
The elbows/the chest/the endless bone cracking caught a quarter mile off. Until, against G-d’s own architecture, each
limb dips like a fractured hammock. On the Commons between Broadway and Kip, the wheel’s nailed high on a pole.
Sparrow hawks peck at the broken body. For four days—for likely only having offered Robin a penny-knife or shelter
in the wee hours of an April morn— he is bloody billowing laundry only death has the stomach to dry