If you wake up in the morning and fragments of phrases, words, and images coalesce into a beautiful potluck of fascinating, hilarious, and magical linguistic gymnastics that have serious questions and answers about life at their core, then you must be reading The Dream Detective by David Mills. In his first collection, language is a platform for profundity and profundity is a platform for language and its reshaping or remolding that both regales us with its fantastic puns, double-entendres and sexual humor as much as it tackles serious subject matter such as the Sean Bell incident epitomized by the poem “Forever’s Bread.” If you are greedy for adventure through language, its mending, its bending and its manipulation for the greater good, then you’ve come to the right place.
In “Forever’s Bread” Mills deals with the tragic incident post shooting, posing questions about Bell’s afterlife and how they reflect upon what happened to him in the present the day before his marriage:
Was it his or a shoelace of smoke
That inched form the Altima’s radiator?
Did a memory fidget in the back of his brain?
When you die do you step into a vestibule
Between this world and the next? When
You die does infinity feel the dent?
It’s as if we are right there with him in the millisecond that the bullet strikes and the ultimate and fatal fragility of man is once again apparent as ever.
The central thematic scaffolding around which these poems are built comes to light in five poems simply known as “Dream Detective (hence the book title).” In the first “Dream Detective,” the reveries are numbered in a call and response where the dreamer asks questions which are answered with absurd punch lines to jokes as if they were constructed on a surreal late night comedy show or at a debate of famous philosophers that perhaps have had too much to drink. For example:
1) Dream, who invented the Nubian twosome?
Hamburger, let's be frank.
3) Dream, when was together apart?
When two Greek dudes in downtown Athens said, "I know
what we can do, start a civilization."
The gift of these poems is not only their comic timing but also their adventuresome joyousness that reels you into a world that the author has invented from the random associations often conjured in ones dreams.
When commenting on issues such as human melancholy, Mills couches it in lightness and humor. In “MISTAKEN MYDENTITY,” we witness a conversation between the narrator and his depression.
When you drift into simple
you are remarkably consistent. But please remember
this is the grim invisible not
A sunish-mint for your pins.
Shall we fun the mental?
You feel no suture for the hope?
Of course love is a chill pill.
This progression from dark emotions into more hopeful moods, done with beauty, guile, puns and a mischievous lascivious wink, is what keeps us in the poem to its conclusion.
The strength of the poems in this debut is its blissful adherence to the power of lists in its description of all things in existence. “A BODY IS…” dedicated to the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, is a multifaceted dance of language play met by a barrage of powerful imagery that describes the human torso in metaphoric and allegorical relation to all of its abilities with humor and the rhythm of a song: “A body is an illegal alien / a body is a guest lecturer / a breathing cathedral / a vagina’s diamond.” And later in the piece the body is measured up against the creative process itself:
A body is thought’s drawing board – go back to it
a body is breath’s copy editor
an erotic penal colony
a dash between two dates
a slipper’s exclamation point…
In this evocative poem, allegory is piled on top of allegory, one always attempting to outdo the other.
Before diving in and perusing this wonderfully eclectic, energetic collection, make certain your tongue gets a good nights sleep and even then it might still get tied up in knots or end up sore. The Dream Detective is a ‘dramedy’ that has serious intentions amidst its bursts of laughter. Like the best performers, Mills knows when to make us giggle, cry, and when to make us think. The short poems such as “BETTY BOOP COPPIN’ CRACK ON BROADWAY” and “NON WORKING STIFF (OR MIAGRA)” are sweet in their brevity and hilarity while “PHYLLISOPHICAL,” dedicated to R&B singer Phyllis Hyman, brings you to your knees until the “INCA TRAIL” forces you to ponder things beyond human comprehension as if waking from a dream when the mist clears and Machu Picchu can be viewed. If you are a good detective, you will find these things and more weaved into this diverse satirical collection bent on worship of the word in all of its glory. Let us all say AMEN!