Monday, January 27, 2014

Wilmer Mills

Wilmer Mills (1969—2011) is an American poet and painter, influenced by the formal techniques of such poets as Robert Frost and Richard Wilbur. He grew up, first in Brazil—as the son of Presbyterian missionaries—and later in his home state of Louisiana. For several years, he and his young family lived in a bungalow in Sewanee, Tennessee which he had built himself. His poems have appeared in many journals, and in the Penguin Anthology of Contemporary Younger Poets. He died at age 41, less than three months after being diagnosed with liver cancer.

He only had one full-length book of poems published in his lifetime, Light for the Orphans (2002). Fortunately, the University of Evansville Press has just published his Selected Poems, which also includes newer poems and some from his earlier chapbook, Right as Rain (1999).

The following poem first appeared in First Things.

Near Starbucks

A homeless woman sleeps outside the door.
She smells of urine so the customers
Who eat brioche and talk about the poor
Step wide of her in winter and in summer.
But she has noticed them in their retreat
Of tea and café latte ambiance.
Oh, yes, she sees their pious nonchalance.
They give her quarters on the holidays
And she would give them stories with her gaze:
A childhood served on white enamel plates;
A father's drunk abuse; teen runaway;
The search for something—love, or merely dates—;
A candy-wrapper life in lingerie.
But eye contact is precious on the street.
She takes their pocket change and falls asleep.

And I'm no better in my arrogance
And its complacent little cubicle.
If I could be like Jesus, just for once,
I'd wake her up and make her beautiful.

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.