Some see me as the Erl King,
spiriting children away, and some
as a kind of saint, rescuing them
from God knows what sort of life.
Many feel sorry I had to settle
for second-hand kids (otherwise
I would have had ones of my own);
while others admire me as a picker
who has sorted through junked lives
and recognized pieces of value.
I’m naïve, a colonialist, an idealist,
a social worker, an opportunist,
a buyer of children (capitalist, slaver,
The balding middle-aged white man
seems so innocuous in the mirror,
but give him young black companions,
have them hold his hand as they walk,
and suddenly there’s a soundtrack,
bass lines, the whistling of a Western,
a heavenly choir. And there’s tremors,
hinting at an avalanche of images
and ideas triggered by their being
who they are, together, going for milk.
A faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Joseph Mills has published four collections of poetry with Press 53. His fifth, This Miraculous Turning, will appear in September 2014.
Photo: Ray Bernoff