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,
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,
from the womb
it is time
for the tomb;
I want to be
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
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,
and polemics
have been
exerted forth
on the subject.
And you know what?
It hasn't changed
a damn thing!
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,
expounding and
on lives lost
and unceremoniously;
we need
no agenda,
in law enforcement
and government;
in our schools
by God,
in our churches;
in our communities
in our boardrooms;
from the President
down to
the janitor
cleaning toilets
in some
in some non-descript
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.
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


This is not going to be
one of those poems,
where I claim to see God in nature;
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",
that I am enough--
who I am,
is enough;
in the mother,
with every fiber
of her being,
through hard-fought sweat
hard-cried tears,
raised me
to be the man
I still sometimes
have doubts
I'm becoming;
in the brothers
and sisters
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,
that when others see me,
they too
can see

© 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
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,
a tinkling cymbal.

I have chosen to deafen my ears
to you,
as I open my eyes,
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,
in the name
of all that is holy,
in the name
of all that is human.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Friday, July 11, 2014

the brave woman at the open mic I saw the other night...

She stands behind the mike,
looking a little battle-weary,
hysterically naked,
clothed in floral summer dress;
she's never done this before,
she tells us,
as we sit in rapt apprehension,
for what is to come,
from her voluptuous mouth.

But then she recites,
not from printed page,
but from memory,
as if she's been doing this
for awhile,
and her voice,
which, at the start,
seemed slightly timid,
bursts forth
in a full-on,
almost deeply musical blast,
regaling us
with verses,
make us laugh,
make us cry;
with our shared
and vulnerability
she has now
left us with,
in standing ovation
and appreciation,
as she,
now confidently,
thanks us,
and leaves the stage.

© 2014 Joseph Powell