Monday, August 17, 2015

A Eulogy For An Examined Life


(for Julian Bond)

If not for him,
and people like him--
What?
What would we be?
Who would we be?
America,
the idea of it;
the promise of it;
the hope for it,
to be better than it is;
to be better than it has been.
To see the other,
in ourselves;
to walk in another man's shoes;
to carry another woman's burden;
to accept the different,
not in spite of that difference,
but because of it.
To sacrifice one's body;
to shed one's own blood;
to speak for those without a voice,
and then provide the microphone
and the stage,
to help them find that voice,
and express it.
We have the tendency
to speak of such people
in lofty tones;
as a lover of words,
who likes to express himself,
using said words,
I'd rather speak
in human tones
of a kind
and gentle man
who tried to do good,
so that
a young child,
affected directly
and indirectly
by such a life,
can grow up,
knowing
what is possible.

© 2015 Joseph Powell

Friday, July 24, 2015

Saddest Lines




Like Neruda,
tonight, I can write the saddest lines;
Write, for example--
Young woman, full of life,
Starting new chapter
In a place, once familiar,
Having her book,
Abruptly ended
by those
who did not know her story.


For example--
Eleven people,
on a night on the town,
whose lives
were irreparably altered
for no foreseeable reason
in the history of
unforeseeable reasons;


how,
a few good men,
charged with defending the country
where they ultimately lost their lives,
undefended;


and how,
cries of ‘enough!’
go unheeded,
like so many
unanswered prayers;
how deaf ears
and blind eyes
and closed mouths
describe
so many of us--
that if we ignore
long enough
the senselessness
going on around us,
it will go away.
But,
as commonly
as the sun rises
and sets,
innocent lives
will no longer be considered
innocent;
black lives
will continue
not to matter;
and those who should lead us,
will be passed over,
by circus clowns
and sideshow freaks
who continue to laugh at us,
while the nation burns.


© 2015 Joseph Powell

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Kalief Browder Killed Himself Today



We failed you, my young brother;
we were supposed to look out for you;
supposed to take care of
the least of these;
we were supposed to be brave for you,
speak up for you,
carry the load
that seemed too heavy for you;
but we failed you,
my brother.

Weren’t we taught
that justice is swift,
that justice is blind?
Well, we know,
far too well,
and as you’ve learned,
in the most difficult way,
that justice
is oftentimes
slow as hell
and unforgiving.
And blind?
Blind only to those,
it supposedly serves,
like you,
my brother.

You were supposed to live
a long life--
longevity does have its place;
you were supposed
to see visions;
you were supposed
to ascend
to heights,
higher than anyone
had ever achieved;
you had people in your corner--
family, lawyers,
celebrities;
people who believed in
your possibilities;
and yet,
it wasn’t enough,
my brother.
Your spirit
had already been broken,
at an age,
when it needed to be
sustained.

I never knew you,
my brother,
except,
as one more news story
that’s hard to bear;
but as I sit here,
writing this elegy,
that I hope
doesn’t fail your memory,
I offer up a weary prayer,
from one,
who increasingly
finds it harder to pray,
that you find the peace
you were unable to receive
during your brief sojourn
upon this earth,
and that no one else
has to endure
the failures
that were bestowed upon you.

R.I.P.,
my brother.

© 2015 Joseph Powell

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Poet Joseph Powell, appearing @2015 Tucson Festival Of Books

Just a shout-out to those of you who may still check this blog periodically--I am still alive, by the way. If you're in the Tucson, AZ area, please come check me out at the Tucson Festival Of Books. I will be performing spoken-word poetry on the Science City Food Court Stage, Sat. Mar. 14, at 1 pm., as well as selling copies of all three of my books--Joby, Uninterrupted:Bittersweet Symphonies and Bohemian Rhapsodies(1989-2009); Poetry Man; and The Writing's On The Wall. I would appreciate all the support and love, especially if you like what I do and purchase a book. Here's the link with a partial schedule--http://tucsonfestivalofbooks.org/?id=64

I hope to see you all there. Peace.

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(in memory of Michael Brown...et al)

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