Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Auld Lang Syne

As we come to the close of yet another year, I am struck by the effect that choices, even one singular life choice, can have on, not only one's life, but on the lives within the realm of that one life, which can dramatically alter the courses of those lives, for better or for worse. Not that this was a suddenly new revelation or epiphanic moment. Outside of my two marriages and, subsequently, divorces, the last major life-altering decision I made was the decision to remain and set up stakes in southern California, 22 years ago, after deciding to part ways with the job that had brought me there in the first place.

This year, on the cusp of my celebrating reaching the mid-century mark(presuming, God willing and the creek don't rise, the possibility of living to see the full century mark), I made, what is, ostensibly, another life-altering decision, which involved pulling up those aforementioned stakes and setting them down in a place that, as was southern California(none too familiar)--Nashville, Tennessee. And with such a move,
the prospect of new opportunities; new friends; new highs and, most likely, new lows. With such a move, I have left behind lifelong friends and a stepdaughter, who now, with the rarest of exceptions and special occasions, I will get to see via phone calls, texting, and Facebook; memories, great and small, tragic and comic; missed opportunities and roads not taken, for good or ill. With such a move, I have benefitted from a closer relationship with my girlfriend, Cindi and gotten to know her family better; I am closer in proximity to my own blood family, many of whom, I had the pleasure of spending time with and look forward to doing more in the coming year; I have become steadily involved in the growing poetry community here and look forward to not only expanding my horizons within, but also branching out into other arenas(literally and figuratively), both within and without, along with the prospect of becoming more prolific and diverse in my literary output.

As I look forward to a new year and the second half of my life's journey, I leave myself open and welcoming to the experiences that will inevitably come, both within my control and outside of it; hopefully letting God lead the way without too much interference on my part, aside from only what is necessary and warranted. I look forward to more visits with my mother and other members of my family; to re-engaging and reconnecting with friends not seen in many a year; to my daughter's graduation from art school and her budding emergence into the art and animation world and all that that entails, as well as her continued development into the woman she is steadily becoming; to the ever-growing effect that my girlfriend will have on my life and the course it will take, as well as her effect on the company of her employ, whose growth has become dependent upon.

And on a much broader perspective, as I look toward this new year, I can only hope, pray, and wish: for more understanding between the citizens of this world; that greed and reckless power are trumped by compassion and a better grasp of the needs of others, no matter where they are or come from; that the role of the artist(regardless of medium) supersedes that of the politician and those who think they have control over us; that truth and love shine brighter than the sun; and that violence, in any form, is no longer a necessity--whether you're a cop or a soldier; a husband who just lost the means to care for his family; a mother who has exhausted all avenues of caring for her children; or a young man or woman who's never been taught or shown the value of life.

As we sing auld lang syne to the year just passed, and hosannas to the year about to be birthed, I wish us all peace; I wish us all hope; I wish us all beauty; I wish us all truth; and, above all, I wish us all, love. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Intifada (for the family of Michael Brown, Jr. and the people of Ferguson, MO)

I want to start a riot...
with my words;
I want to be the language
for the unheard;
release Molotov cocktails
in a barrage
of free verse;
explode word bombs
of lyrical meter
into the faces
of the unjust;
I want to be
what the powers-that-be
are unable to hear,
when mothers
are screaming for children
they will never see again;
be the blood
that cries from the ground;
the truth,
they're unwilling to see
when they're face-to-face
with another young black man,
another young black woman,
who,
doesn't deserve to die
at their hands...
at anybody's hands;

I want to be the change
that we need to see in the world,
that says,
that every life matters,
every life matters,
EVERY...
LIFE...
MATTERS!
from the womb
until
it is time
for the tomb;
I want to be
justice,
for Mike Brown;
for Tamir Rice;
for Vonderrit Myers;
for Akai Gurley;
for John Crawford;
for Tanesha Anderson;
for Eric Garner;
for Renisha McBride;
for Jordan Davis;
for Trayvon Martin;
for Oscar Grant;
for the ones we don't hear about,
and the ones, that,...;
I want to be justice,
for us all.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Summer Of Our Malcontent

Here's a revolutionary act--
how about,
I'm not going to write
another damn poem
about,
or in tribute to,
or in memory of,
another young black person
gunned down
before their prime,
before their time?
I feel
I've written enough about that;
in fact,
too many
poems, songs,
essays,
and polemics
have been
exerted forth
on the subject.
And you know what?
It hasn't changed
a damn thing!
Hell,
we've passed laws
against discrimination
and police brutality,
and guess what?

You know what I'm saying!

So, no,
we don't need another poem,
another ballad,
another talking head,
or poisoned pen,
extemporizing
and
philosophizing;
expounding and
profounding
on lives lost
needlessly
and unceremoniously;
we need
intelligent,
unpretentious,
non-biased,
no agenda,
malcontents
in law enforcement
and government;
in our schools
and,
by God,
in our churches;
in our communities
and
in our boardrooms;
from the President
down to
the janitor
cleaning toilets
in some
non-descript
building,
in some non-descript
neighborhood--
to have the courage,
the intestinal fortitude
to say,
'It's been more than enough,
for far, far too long,
and damnit,
we're doing something about it;
from shoring up
and storing up
our communities,
to demilitarizing
and retraining our police;
from taking the money
that's going into the pockets
of corporate shareholders
and putting it into the pockets
of neighborhoods
that feel that nobody cares,
that nobody sees,
that their lives don't matter.

But you know what?
I've lived as long
as the Civil Rights Act
has been in existence,
and I've seen over that time,
more blood of innocents spilt;
and I've seen
the righteous forsaken;
and I've seen
promises broken;
and I've just done,
what I said at the outset,
I wasn't going to.
So,
I will lay down my pen,
close my eyes to the light,
and pray,
to a God
I hope is listening,
in spite of my doubt,
in spite of history,
past and present,
that another young black child
lies down safe tonight
and awakes
to a new day.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Emmanuel

This is not going to be
one of those poems,
where I claim to see God in nature;
yes,
I do see God in the cloud-filled skies;
in the thunder and lightning
of a summer rainstorm;
in the tree-strewn woods
that is my Tennessee backyard;
but more than that,
I see God
in the man standing at the end
of the interstate off-ramp,
selling a little piece of his soul,
a little piece of his hard-earned work
to maybe keep a roof over his head;
I see God,
in the person
stepping up to the mike,
to share their truth--
no matter how raw,
or profane,
for if I learned anything
in the religion class
I had in college,
it's that truth is truth;

I see God,
in the daughter who loves me
from 2000 miles away,
who I know
is becoming
the woman
and artist
she needs to be;
I see God
in the woman,
who everyday
tells me,
in no uncertain terms,
"I love you",
and
that I am enough--
who I am,
is enough;
in the mother,
who,
with every fiber
of her being,
through hard-fought sweat
and
hard-cried tears,
raised me
to be the man
I still sometimes
have doubts
I'm becoming;
in the brothers
and sisters
who,
even though
we don't always communicate,
are more connected to me
than even I understand;

and yes,
though it doesn't need to be said,
but because this is a poem,
it must be--
I see God
in the reflection
looking back at me
every morning
I awake,
hoping,
praying,
that when others see me,
they too
can see
God.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Friday, July 18, 2014

In The Name Of...

If you can no longer cry for the fallen,
and yet,
turn a tragedy into a punchline;
if you are able to look into the face of a child,
and only see
an enemy to your privacy
and complacency;
if your ego has become such,
that you'd rather spend all your waking hours,
fighting those who are trying to do good,
as opposed to,
working together for the common good;
if the suffering of the least of these,
has become a burden you no longer wish to bear
or,
have never ever borne;
then speak to me not,
of your humanity,
or of the God you say you believe in,
who, being merciful,
gives no credence
to your claim;
you, sir or madam,
have lost the privilege
to speak,
of what is good and right;
you have become
as sounding brass,
or,
a tinkling cymbal.

I have chosen to deafen my ears
to you,
as I open my eyes,
wider,
to the plight of those
who are my brothers,
who are my sisters,
whether young or old,
whether near or far;
of whom,
I am their keeper,
as are those,
who do have eyes,
that are willing to see,
what needs to be seen;
and do
what needs to,
and must be,
done,
in the name
of all that is holy,
in the name
of all that is human.

© 2014 Joseph Powell