Prime Number Magazine
is a publication of 
Press 53
PO Box 30314,
Winston-Salem NC 27130
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Issue 103, Jan – Mar 2017
Prime Number Magazine is a publication of Press 53, PO Box 30314, Winston-Salem, NC 27130
Joseph Mills
Guest Editor for Poetry

Issue 109, July-September 2017



Joseph Mills is a full professor at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he holds an endowed chair, the Susan Burress Wall Distinguished Professorship in the Humanities. He has published six collections of poetry with Press 53, his most recent Exit, pursued by a bear, a collection of poems prompted by Shakespeare’s stage directions.
Joseph is accepting submissions Jan – Mar
The first Shakespeare play Joseph can remember reading was Macbeth in ninth grade. The work seemed to be primarily a collection of literary devices, and his decades-old Penguin edition still has notations in the margins, such as “metaphor,” “soliloquy!” and “apostrophe?” In college, when he reread the play, he realized it was a tale about ambition and fate. In his 30s, when he reread it, he recognized it was about politics. In his 40s, it was the story of a marriage. 

He doesn’t know what will strike him the next time he rereads Shakespeare’s work, but he is confident that he’ll think, “Oh, that’s what it’s about. Of course.”
Enter a Messenger with two heads and a hand

           from Exit, pursued by a bear
There’s enough work in these plays
to make an okay living,
especially if you can do a few money moves 
before the news you have goes public.

The trick is to keep your mouth shut
no matter what you’re carrying
or who the recipient
and to not react
no matter what they give you: 
coins, curses, blows.

Mostly it’s letters and announcements,
but there is the occasional head, 
which can be messy
because no one ever bothers 
to box them up properly.
These you often can upsell
to include a platter 
instead of a bag
(the profit margin’s in the surcharges)
because it’s not just about delivery,
but display. You’re like a waiter,
showcasing a meal,
but it’s not about you.
That’s the key.
You go on,
deliver the news, or hands, 
or whatever, and get off.  
Just do that, and you’ll be fine. 
You’ll make enough 
to feed the family, 
save a little for retirement,
and you’ll be alive at the end.