Saturday, April 12, 2014

An Honest Man, A Good Writer--A New Poem








Like Baldwin before me,
Like Bukowski even,
I want to be
an honest man
and a good writer.


Like Hemingway,
I want to bleed on the page;
I want the truth
to be laid bare;
quoting Ginsburg,
hysterical naked;
no bullshit,
no chaser;
what you read
is what you get;
I might
and can
create fiction,
but,
if you don’t see yourself
in it,
then I’ve wasted my time
and yours;


because,
the world has enough lies
and liars,
and,
in my opinion,
not enough
with the courage
to say
what needs to be said
in the way
that it needs to be said.


Let the politicians
and false prophets
shut up for a change,
and let the poets
have the floor;
wonder how much more
earthly good,
let alone,
heavenly,
can be done
if the artists
were able to call the shots.


I want to be
an honest man
and
a good writer--
two things
that I will always
want to strive towards,
rather than
achieve,
because,
if I attain that,
if I arrive there,
where else
is there to go?


© 2014 Joseph Powell

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Epiphany In D Minor

I'm having a jazz moment,
which is to say,
a moment of clarity,
a moment of truth.
Though I am no longer
young, per se,
I am still gifted
and I am still,
very much so,
black--
to God be the glory
for that!
My increasingly
heavy-lidded eyes
are still wide open
because,
I believe,
there is still much
to be seen.

I still want to see visions;
I want to see the beauty
that is still there in the world,
before greedy men,
inevitably,
haul it away
or destroy it altogether;

I want to see this woman,
who says she loves me,
grow old with me;

I want to see my daughter
have the life she's supposed to have,
with the person she's supposed to be with
and the children
who will follow
in her footsteps
to become beautiful, compassionate
artists and caregivers;

I want to see poetry,
become a premier art form
that is taught
as such,
in schools and universities
and celebrated at award shows
and honored by heads of state;

I want to see my mother,
hailed as a hero,
for trying to raise five children
the best way she knew how,
mistakes and all,
for she was a human being,
dammit!,
in a world that wanted
to see her
as less than,
and in my book,
that alone,
is worthy of high praise.

I want my brothers
and my sisters--
strong men
and even stronger women,
be blessed
beyond measure,
because they have endured much
in this life,
and I want to believe
that God continues to favor
those who continue to endure.

I want to see the rich
finally understand
what it's like,
to live in poverty;
and for the poor,
to be able to live above their means
(ruminate on that for awhile,
until you get it).

I want to one day,
when I stand,
though most likely
kneel,
before the bema seat--
be told,
I was a good
and faithful servant,
in spite of myself;
and a steward
of all that was good
and right
in this broken world;
that I did my best
to show favor
to the least of these,
and through my art
and through my life,
I helped people
to touch
the face of God.

Suffice it to say,
this was a very full moment I had--
a jazz moment,
a moment of clarity,
a moment of truth.
To those who should
happen to read this,
I hope you have
your own moment
and that you are able to see
what it is
that you need to see.

 © 2014 Joseph Powell

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Quote of the Week

When I write, I want you to see the blood I bled, with each word; I want you to taste the tears I cried, feel the sweat that pored from my brow with each agonizing syllable; I want you to laugh at each joyful remembrance and weep at each assailable tragedy that has befallen me; I want you to swallow the bitter taste of my truth, and devour the sweetness of every lie. When I write, I want you to be faced with the inescapable me and maybe see yourself in the mirror that I am holding up before you.

--Joseph Powell

Monday, February 03, 2014

From The Joseph Powell Archives--In Celebration of Black History

My life is black history. The very fact that I exist. My mama’s son. Third of five. Didn’t know my father. Wanting to be a father. Wanting to be a man, wanting to be a writer—wanting to be James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Maya Angelou, the entire Harlem Renaissance wrapped up in one. Standing on the shoulders of those who came before, who kicked down the door, so that I could strut right through, doing the funky chicken and the jitterbug, to Duke’s “A-train”, and Miles’ “Kind of Blue”.

My life is black history. Growing up in high-rise projects. Fat kid with four eyes and crooked teeth. The brain, the Professor, they called me. And sometimes it’s hard to hold your nappy head up, sometimes it’s hard to press on, wondering what it means to overcome, just trying to stay in school and keep mama from “whuppin’ your behind”. Playing in rundown yards and broken down cars, dreaming you were someone else, like the Batman, sometimes dreaming you lived somewhere else, anywhere but where you lived.

My life is black history, but the kind that is still ongoing, that still lives and moves and has its being. The kind that says I can, as one man, make a difference, again like those who came before, especially the ones who aren’t in the history books. You can’t tell me my history—the reason we aren’t in the history books, is because it would take more books than we know what to do with to tell our story-- his story, her story, my story. My life is a song of my people, black people, black and beautiful, black and proud. It is a love poem, to my mama, about my mama, in celebration of my mama—of all mamas. It’s also a love poem to my brothers and my sisters, and to my ‘bruthas’ and ‘sistahs’. It’s a thank you  for wiping my nose and kicking my ass, for giving me wisdom and helping me grow, for showing me God and how to dance with the devil. For the blues and funk. For poetry and the telling of our stories. For teaching me to appreciate myself without having to look down on others, regardless of race, color, or creed.

My life is black history, in all its glorious splendor. The man that I am and still want to be; the lover of my woman that I still aspire to be; the poet and writer, the preacher and the teacher, instilled in me, still yearning to display himself for the world, “for him who has ears to hear”. I share with you my life, my history, but you must accept it on its own terms and not what you wish to make it, for it will not be denied, like the shining of the sun or the brightness of the moon. My life is history in the making, my life is black history.

Monday, January 06, 2014

And I Call The Bastard, Art--A Poem

This is my first new poem of the new year--


My head feels like it wants to explode,
full to the brim, it is,
with ideas,
images,
night terrors
both real
and imagined;
fantasies
that are better kept
unrevealed,
let alone,
put down on paper;


I can actually feel time
slipping away,
I wish I had every minute
to myself
to write down
everything I want to say,
everything,
I need to say;
how many books
could I fill up then?
I am
a frustrated writer,
a musician
who never learned
an instrument,
but I know music
flows through
each word I write;
an artist,
with pages
upon pages
of blank canvas,
that need to be brought
to life,
with the stuff of life
that’s in my head,
which is
making it want to explode.


Mine is
a restless soul,
ever thirsty,
ever hungry,
eyes wandering,
always seeking,
always questioning,
always wanting
more,
and never satisfied.


Do not pity me,
for I need not,
your pity;
do not fear me,
for I am not to be feared;
I am.
like all of you,
human--
an amalgamation
of flaws,
ugly truths,
and
raw beauty,
too much to contain


Coming to this realization,
I believe,
is why God
has both blessed
and cursed me
to be a poet,
for it is the poet’s
duty
to convey ugly truths,
to reveal
raw beauty,
in ways
that those who choose
to see
can understand.


My head feels like it wants to explode,
because my duty,
my cross to bear,
my ordained mission
has not yet been fulfilled.
So,
I will close this poem,
because there is
still so much
that needs to be said,
that needs to be done--
art,
that bastard stepchild
born from the conflation
of my ego
and my pain,
and my penance
is not yet done.


© 2014 Joseph Powell

Friday, December 06, 2013

Madiba--A New Poem

We knew you,
by your love--
love for your neighbor,
love for your oppressors,
love for the world;
a man,
anointed,
appointed
to show us
what forgiveness
looks like;
to show us
what one man
can do,
what we all
can do,
when we are not governed
by fear,
by hatred;

this was your life,
displayed before us;
this is your legacy,
you now leave us;
your long walk
towards freedom
has now taken flight
as angels
guide you safely
home.

Godspeed, Madiba.

© 2013 Joseph Powell


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving

May we all be thankful for who and what we have. And remember those who have not or who are unable to be with their families and friends. God's peace be with them, and with us all.