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Al Mills

Al Mills is half of the Twin Poets, a spoken word duo with his brother, Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha. They are the authors of the collections Our Work, Our Words... Poems from the Pavement (Nu Direction Publishing, 2015), Our Work, Our Words... Taking the Guns from Our Sons' Hands (iUniverse, 2008), Lyric Libations (Rebirth Press, 2000), and Selected Poems (Rebirth Press, 1998). They have also performed at the Delaware Humanities Forum, the Walt Whitman Arts Center, the HBO Def Poetry National and International tours, and at the Philadelphia Art Museum, among others.

They are the recipients of numerous awards and grants, including the Wilmington Urban League MLK Award, the Bank of American Local Hero Award, and the State of Delaware Social Workers of the Year. The brothers are Licensed Master Social Workers and founders of Art For Life—Delaware, a non-profit youth and community development organization rooted in the arts. The Twin Poets were the subjects of award winning documentaries Why I Write and Art For Life, which chronicle their artistic social change efforts. Mills is a therapist, co-founder of G.O.A.L.S and S.Y.A. tutoring and mentoring programs in Wilmington, and an Iraq War veteran who often speaks about his struggles with PTSD as a result of the war.

Read about Al Mills’s 2020 Poets Laureate Fellowship project.

By This Poet

3

Dreams Are Illegal

Twin Poets Al Mills and Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha perform “Dreams are Illegal”


 

I had a dream
I had a dream that I was in America
I mean I was actually in the land of the beautiful
And the home of the brave
My boss came into my office and said
‘Hi Bob, how’s it going?
Why don’t you take off early and here is that raise”
As I pulled my Suburban, up to my suburban home
I checked the mail in the box
And saw that I was approved for another home equity loan
Girl scouts were there ringing the bell with cookies to sell
Of course, I bought a box
As Hillary quieted down Marmaduke, who had begun to bark
And later on, me—the wife & kids took a bike ride to the park
When we returned got back we had apple pie with ice cream on top
Then we buckled up and headed on down to the Redbox
To get some videos to watch
When we got in, the kids put on their pjs
And we met in the den
Relaxed on the couch for some family time watching videos
Then all these strangers turned to me and said:
What are you doing here? Don’t you know...
Dreams are Illegal in the Ghetto

Gunshots ring in the heat of the night
Followed by screams, violently disrupting my dreams
In my neighborhood
I don’t have to read the paper or watch the news
To know that something bad happen around here tonight
But once the ambulance leaves, the police sirens stop,
And the crowd disperses
The silence soaks into my soul, sobering my senses
In this often over-intoxicating society
I try to relax but the Devil just won’t let go
He keeps pointing to the signs that are posted all around me
That read: Dreams are Illegal

My neighborhood is the bottom of the barrel
Where drugs get mixed
Here there are no brothers and sisters
Just confused brothers and sisters
Here people drown in the backwash
Of the latest political scandal
In the midst of ghetto chaos dreams are quickly lost
The Devil is in sweet control
As dreams are stole
There is no honor amongst thieves
So dreams are stolen with ease
A high school graduate barely seventeen
Gives up her college dreams, for a pair of tight jeans
And a chance to be the next inner city queen
In the inner city checks and basketballs bounce with regularity
Life and death intermix with no disparity
Some children live for nothing, some children die for nothing
Everyday blue skies are gray
All they know is, they wanna make $doe
The Devil has them chasing a colorless rainbow
At the end there is no pot of gold, just a pot of steam
Which He exchanges for their dreams
Bona fide slaves are made in the Devil’s dream trade
Without dreams you are equivalent to being non-existent
Our children need to be told they can achieve
And that God bless those that hold on to their dreams
We have to take down the signs so that our children won’t know
That the Devil is trying to make dreams illegal...
 

Hello Beautiful

Twin Poets Al Mills and Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha perform “Hello Beautiful”


 

Hello beautiful
Who you looking at like that?
I don't know why you keep looking at me like that.
Girl, I don't know why
You don't Let the corners of your mouth curl and point to the sky
And who are you looking at you with those old ugly eyes
Trying to tell me those little ugly lies
About how we not pretty enough
How our hair is too short and how our features are too strong and rough
I swear you need to get your eyes checked
Because here you go again with that same old mess
About how she look better and how you like her hair
But don't you think they’re saying the same thing when they look in the mirror

Blah blah blah, I heard it all before
You don't like our eyes, our nose, our cheekbones and your lips for sure
And don't even get me started on my pimples and blackheads
I wish mom would just get me some Proactive like the other kids
Then my skin would look better and everyone would tell me how cute I am
Snap out of it, when did hating our gifts become a part of the plan?

You think that you want to be like her
But she is just doing the same thing she saw somebody else do
The flyest thing of all is just you being you
So just smile because you can't be number two
Because there is only one you
So let's make a pact and agree
That when you look in the mirror from now on
You will be amazed at all the beauty you see
When you look at me: I want you to see
My face as a priceless jewel
A full sunflower, peach blossom in bloom

I want you to see all the marks of beauty that make me unique
Gaze at my features stroll your fingers down my cheek
See the rainbow that are my eyebrows, right above the roses that our my eyes
And in the middle of my coronation and lily cheeks is my lotus flower for a nose
While my mouth is as beautiful as jasmine and ginger
See my smile, notice I no longer have 2 lips
I have tulips, orchids and daises
I know to see me this way for the first time is amazing

But we’re in this together: me and you
And if you forever see the beauty in me, I'll forever show the beauty in you
When you look at me
I want you to smile and want to take a selfie
So when you greet me tomorrow morning and say hello beautiful
I won't be surprised
I'll just know you now you see the beautiful flower you are on the inside

Monday Morning

Twin Poets Al Mills and Nnamdi O. Chukwuocha perform “Monday Morning”


I imagine, you probably wake your kids up with a kiss on the forehead

Saying "good morning sunshine" as you help them make their beds

Your kids have a complete breakfast, then they go rinse, brush & floss

Put on their clean uniforms, grab their bag lunches then skip off to the garage

Then hear "I love you and have a good day" as they get dropped off

But Monday morning in my house is a little different than yours

Because somewhere on her travels home the past few nights, my mom got lost

Now I haven’t seen my mom in a day or two

There are no clean clothes or nothing to eat, so what am I supposed to do?

Yeah, I'm only 12 years old and I haven’t seen my mom all weekend

I not awaken by any I love you’s or alarm clock beeping

But by my little sister standing in my doorway asking me: what are we going to eat?

My little sister she is only 7, she doesn’t know any better

She dressed in the same dirty clothes she wore all last week

She keeps telling me she's hungry, asking me: what are we going to eat?

I say: mommy ain't here, go back to sleep

I got up around 11, while lil sis was still sleep

Hit the corner store and stole us some noodles and chips to eat

While we’re watching TV, my mom staggers back in from her long weekend

We barely looked up from our bowls, we just keep on eating

See this is Monday morning in my house

Love kept us silent—too afraid to hear the truth that might come out

Those unasked questions:

She doesn’t ask us: why we’re not in school?

We don’t ask her: where she’s been?

She doesn’t even ask: where the noodles came from?

She just asked me: to go make her some          

I said: it’s not anymore

Then I handed her my full bowl and walked out to go to the store to steal some more

As I open the door

 

My social worker is standing there asking me: why am I not in school?

 

And I say: Monday morning in my house is a little bit different than yours