Henry Mills, the political poet

What you are about to read is a short, but interesting biography about the poet Henry Mills, and his unique style of writing, followed by an interpretation of his poem ”run” by me.

Henry Mills is a poet and musician from Silver Spring, Maryland. He grew listening to hip hop, so his poetry is mixed with some gangster words or phrases. He started writing poetry in middle school, but back then he was just writing about girls and school. As he grew older, he became more interested in poetries, and by the time he attended the University of Maryland, he became serious in writing them.. There, he created a student poetry organization along with his friend. He is only 25 years old today, and his goal is to get a master’s degree, and become a professional poet.

Most of Henry Mills’ poetry is based on social awareness; it was influenced by his family back ground.  His mother is from El Salvador, and his father is American. His mother fled her country during civil war, and went to America. There, she met Henry’s father, who at the time was helping to end the big mess at Central America. Henry’s poems often have Spanish words, and Jewish sayings mixed into it.

All of Henry Mills’ poems are pretty long. That is because he uses very descriptive language which takes up space, but he doesn’t use much poetic devices. Most of his poems tell a story. They tend to have lots of line breaks, and indentations. The theme of the poem is clear, but some little parts are hard to understand, because he has a wide range of vocabulary.

Run

There is already a helicopter in the sky,

A shadow against the stars,

when my mother steps out of the river,

water rolling off her back.

I’ve never seen her that way

nor the way the copilot sees her from the cockpit

looking down at her body

hot white on his infrared screen.

Ahead, coyotes have tied tree branches together

to form the tunnel she vanishes into.

This is how my mother is greeted,

with a ceremony in the shadows,

where she ceases to be Salvadoran

and becomes Latina.

There are already agents in the streets

when she steps off the bus in Columbia Heights;

already doors kicked in;

dogs barking in the wake of men and women

dragged away, cursing in Spanish;

a pot of bean soup left boiling over

black onto the kitchen floor;

men still in their work clothes

on an airplane back to the motherland

where unforgiving soldiers wait

to fuck them, to torture them,

tie a lime bag over their heads and fill them with death.

There is already a baby somewhere

in the back of a crowded hatch,

moments from American air.

This is how I was born,

turning and kicking through the darkness.

When my mother’s eyes met my father’s eyes

there was no common language between them.

Corre, my mother said to me once, sitting cross-legged on

her bed.

Corre, I repeat, and trace the letters in my workbook.

The poem “Run” is about Henry’s mother, who tries to escape to the United States when her country was having the civil war. Along the lines of this poem, it expresses mixed feelings of desperation, terror, sadness, and love. When I first read it, I didn’t know what it was about; there were a lot of inferences to make. This is a very long and complex poem.

This poem starts off with “a helicopter in the sky” (line 1, stanza 1). It was described as a shadow, this makes it seem creepy and mysterious. “My mother steps out of the river” (line 3, stanza 1), the “river” was indicating the Rio Grenade river which borders USA and Mexico, and his mother was crossing it. “The co-pilot sees her from the cockpit” (line 6, stanza 1), the co-pilot sees her, but I think he is actually on her side, trying to help her. “Ahead, coyotes have tied tree branches together/ to form the tunnel she vanishes into.” (stanza 2) she walks through a forest, the coyotes follow her, making a path behind. “This is how my mother is greeted” (line 1, stanza 3) his mother meets the co-pilot and his crew in the forest, “Where she ceases to be Salvadoran/ and becomes Latina.” They help her get to America, and she becomes Latina.

“When she steps off the bus in Columbia Heights;” (lines 2, stanza 4), the co-pilot and his crew drop her off at Columbia Heights (a neighbourhood in central Washington D.C.), where the Latin people have established a settlement. “already doors kicked in;/ dogs barking in the wake of men and women/ dragged away, cursing in Spanish;”(lines 3-5, stanza 4) Latin people are being dragged away from their home by agents from their home country, this is a very good imagery, it creates a loud and violent scene in my mind. ”on an airplane back to the motherland/ where unforgiving soldiers wait/ to fuck them, to torture them,” (lines 9-11, stanza 4), the Latin people, who are brought back, will be tortured, and even killed by the soldiers as their punishment for escaping to America.

“There is already a baby somewhere/ in the back of a crowded hatch,” (lines 1-2, stanza 5), Henry was born in the back of a crowded hatch, where the Latin people are hiding from the soldiers. “When my mother’s eyes met my father’s eyes/ there was no common language between them.” (lines 6-7, stanza 5), when their eyes met, there was no need to say anything, the father knows that they are safe, and that Henry was born.

“Corre, my mother said to me once, sitting cross-legged on/ her bed./ Corre, I repeat, and trace the letters in my workbook.”(last stanza), corre means run in Spanish. His mother tells him to run the next time the “unforgiving soldiers” come to get them. If his mother hadn’t run the last time the soldiers came, Henry would not have existed.

The poem was carefully divide into different stanzas, and then made into non-orderly line breaks and indentations. I take it that every new stanza is a totally different scene. The poet uses the line breaks sometimes to show a different sentence starting, and other times he puts indentations in there, and uses it as a comma, or to show a pause in a sentence.

This poem had a mysterious tone to it at first, and then gradually it became sad. From the first stanza to the third stanza, the tone was mysterious and strange. If it was someone’s first time reading the poem, by just reading the first three stanzas, the person would not know the theme of the poem.  Along the fourth stanza, the tone of the poem began to change, and make sense. It sounded desperate and fearful as the Latin people are taken back to their home country. When I read this stanza, I can hear the cries of the Latin people and see the tears on their bruised faces as they are beaten, and taken away. In the last two stanzas, the tone show love in the family of three, and thankfulness that they are safe, but also, they feel sorry for their friends who were taken back.

This poem describes an important history of Henry Mills’ family. I think he wrote it to express his anger towards his country for everything that his mom and the other Latin people had to go through.

That is my essay on Henry Mills and his poetry. The interpretation part was a bit long, because the poem is very long. Maybe I didn’t understand every little detail about the poem, but at least I got the big idea. Thank you for reading!

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