My grandfather worked in a factory his entire life. He would come home after his shift, drink a Schlitz on the porch, then putter in the backyard or driveway until dinner. If something was broken, he could fix it or find a work-around, what he called kluge-making, and everyone came to him for advice about motors and construction before they went to the hardware store. Often he would go out to the garage with its shelves of Maxwell House coffee cans full of bolts, screws, nails, metal doohickies, and find a part they needed and often parts they hadn’t yet realized they needed. No one was surprised to find him wandering through a renovation, just to see what was going on, and few had a car that he hadn’t stuck his head into or under. Like everyone, he had a fishing boat, but he spent as much time tuning its green Evinrude outboard as he did trolling on the lake. He took weekend naps in a hammock, smoked vanilla Cavendish pipe tobacco, and often would eat a quart of butter pecan ice cream at a single sitting. Dozens of people gave testimonials at his wake, the consensus being, “He was a genius with a wrench.” My grandmother said nothing that night, but in the following years, whenever she heard his name she would sigh and say, “Oh, that man could dance.”
A faculty member at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Joseph Mills has six collections of poetry published, most recently Exit, pursued by a bear which consists of poems triggered by stage directions in Shakespeare. His book This Miraculous Turning (Press 53, 2014) was awarded the North Carolina Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry for its exploration of race and family. In 2019, Press 53 published his first book of fiction, Bleachers: fifty-four linked fictions.
Author’s website: www.josephrobertmills.com