Joe Mills

Overheard at the Children’s Museum

Would you please stop touching that?
I’m going to count to three.
When did you last have the hat?
If you don’t behave, we’ll leave.

I’m going to count to three.
It’s amazing how she’s grown.
If you don’t behave, we’ll leave.
I’m serious. We’ll go home.

It’s amazing how he’s grown.
We come here on days like these.
I’m serious. You’ll go home.
My God, she had wanted three.

We come here on days like these.
You stay with him. I’ll take her.
And to think he wanted three.
It’s hard to parent sober.

I’ll go with him. You take her.
No, I’m not buying you that.
It’s good to see you sober.
Has anyone seen a hat?

Good Dancers

Since it’s about communicating,
knowing how to lead and follow,
working smoothly together,
there’s an understandable jealousy
in seeing someone dance well
with your partner, doing spins
you’ve never done, being more
graceful than you’ve ever been.
You know you shouldn’t be upset,
but there are those nagging questions.
Why do they look so good together?
Is there something you should know?
What are they communicating?

A faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Joseph Mills has published six collections of poetry, including Exit, pursued by a bear which consists of poems triggered by stage directions in Shakespeare. His book This Miraculous Turning was awarded the North Carolina Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry for its exploration of race and family. In 2019, he published his first book of fiction, Bleachers: 54 linked fictions, which takes place during a youth soccer game. Currently he is working on a poetry manuscript about dance. More information about his work is available at



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