Sunday, January 10, 2016

The Autobiography of J.P.



I’m writing my autobiography,
where God is doing the foreword,
and the epilogue;
excuse me, if it goes astray;
I’m not sure how the rest of it
is going to go,
but I can guarantee two things,
if that--
one, that Cicely Tyson
will not be playing me
in a made-for-TV movie;
and it probably won’t be as earth-shattering
or life-changing as Malcolm’s;
but, it will be, undeniably,
irrefutably,
and unapologetically,
black;
but universal in scope,
because,
you know,
I’m all about humanity.

There will be family drama,
and odes to Mama;
there’ll be heartaches
and earthquakes;
wind chills
and just chillin’;
there will be highs…
oh yes,
highs,
definitely, highs…
I mean,
there will also be
some lows,
but,
definitely,
highs,
because…
but I digress.

This will be my story,
my personal history;
but, it’ll also be your story,
and her story;
a life story,
and a story about life;
a true story,
and a story about truth.

You’ll ask me,
will there be jazz?
Because we know,
you love jazz.
Oh yes,
there is jazz;
in my story,
there’s always jazz--
the time I left
a Miles Davis concert,
way too early,
the year before he died;
or when I saw Frank
on a distant stage,
at a time when
I didn’t appreciate him,
the way I do now
that he’s gone;
listening to Billie,
serenading me with,
“Good Morning, Heartache”,
as sung through the lips
of a woman I met
at a poetry festival in Austin…
and Coltrane,
Coltrane,
whether in a Spike Lee joint;
or on the turntable;
or in a poem,
that I just had to write--
he,
like God,
like my betrothed,
has taught me
all about
a love supreme.

You will ask me,
will there be romance?
Because,
we know,
you’re a hopeless romantic.
Oh yes,
there is romance,
without being
too explicitly graphic,,,
hmmm…
yes,
there will be romance--
love found,
then lost,
then found again;
then lost again;
then refound;
then relost;
then given another chance,
only to lose it again,
then regain it…
I think you get the picture.

But,
there’s also the love of a child,
blossomed into an adult;
and maternal love,
which is not unlike,
eternal love,
which I’ve also known;
and the love of a few friends,
some still here,
and some…

You’ll learn about
choices made,
and dreams dreamed,
and paths not taken,
that maybe
should have been.
Regrets,
yes,
I’ve had a few…
But,
the beauty is,
as I’ve intimated at the outset,
this story
is still being written,
with many more chapters,
plot twists,
and perhaps,
even a few red herrings
and wild goose chases,
because,
well,
I like fish
and poultry,
but,
once again,
I digress.

I’m hoping
you’ll take this journey
with me;
I’m hoping
that you won’t be bored;
you may not like
a particular chapter,
but please,
keep reading.
The best
just might be
yet to come.

© 2016 Joseph Powell

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Je Suis Un Poete, Je Suis Paris




Paris, Paris,
I want to shed tears for you,
but that would not bring back your fallen;
I want to be angry for you,
but where would I begin?
And to whom would I direct my anger?
Would that undo another senseless tragedy?
Pray for you?
I don't know that I have other than
meaningless words,
because this shit keeps happening,
in spite of prayers and positive thoughts;
I believe even God is tired
and that would be saying a lot.
One thing, I think I know
is that you, Paris, love poets
and poetry;
so,
from un poete,
who still hopes
to, one day,
fall in love with your city,
like so many before me,
I freely give you this--
my tears are the ink
upon this page;
my anger is hidden between the words
and lines of this poem,
which is the only prayer I can offer,
along with a single, one-word unanswerable question that,
for me, defines all of humanity--
Why?

©2015 Joseph Powell 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

A Different Kind of Blue



There's something about listening to Joni Mitchell,
while driving in the rain;
It's the essence of jazz;
It's the essence of all that is
pure and holy;
like the love of three significant women in my life--
my mama,
who makes me feel like a son,
through laughter
and wisdom;
a daughter,
who calls me Dad;
and the woman,
who wants me to be
her husband;
four,
if you believe
that God can be a woman
when He wants to be,
which is more often than not;
then there are my sisters,
who, in no particular order, are
five and six,
and are joy
and light to me,
in that order.

It's funny,
the things you'll think of
when you're driving in the rain,
while listening to
Joni Mitchell.
It's blue,
like jazz,
like the color of an empty sky,
after the storm has passed.

© 2015 Joseph Powell

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.