Sunday, June 12, 2016


Don't ask me anymore,
where I'm going
with that gun in my hand;
it is my right to own it,
it is my right 
to do with it
as I please;
this is America!
The whole country
is the Wild, Wild West,
Where we shoot first,
then ask questions later--

You see someone suspicious?
Shoot them
before they shoot you;
doesn't matter
if they're armed 
or not,
they had it coming.
we've all got it coming, kid.

Someone playing loud music?
Doesn't matter 
if they're driving away,
shoot them down--
it's called
volume control!

Someone looks at you funny,
or talks wrong to your woman?
before you see 
the whites of their eyes;

someone in your way
in a darkened hallway;
or talking back at you
on an elevated platform?
You've got  a gun
(which is your right),
Don't hesitate!
will get you killed.
It's survival 
of the fittest, baby,
and he who owns the gun,
calls the shots
(pun intended).

know what time it is!
Arm yourselves!
You never know
when shit 
is going to go down.
It's best to be ready
to shoot,
then reload,
then shoot,
then reload,
then shoot,

and in answer
to your question
from earlier,
you know
where I'm going.

© 2016 Joseph Powell


Thursday, April 21, 2016

When The Purple Rain Stops Falling

You taught me
that doves cry;
you made your guitar
gently weep,
under a purple rain;
you were sacred
and profane,
all in one song;
and no one
compares to you;

you took funk
to a whole nother level,
just when
we were starting to take notice;
you redefined music,
like true geniuses do;
like those few before you--
like Miles,
like J.B.,
like Michael;

you showed it was possible
to tap into
your feminine side
and still
be a man;
you showed that black folks
know how to rock--
like Jimi,
like Chuck,
like Richard;

there will be tears shed;
there will be a host of tributes
and more words than these
to extol your praises;
there will definitely be those
who will come after
to copy and emulate
and to further build upon
the foundation
that you've laid;

I'll be the guy
in the club,
nodding my head,
and marveling
at what you've just done.

© 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;
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--

©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;
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 would we be?
Who would we be?
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,
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;

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

and how,
cries of ‘enough!’
go unheeded,
like so many
unanswered prayers;
how deaf ears
and blind eyes
and closed mouths
so many of us--
that if we ignore
long enough
the senselessness
going on around us,
it will go away.
as commonly
as the sun rises
and sets,
innocent lives
will no longer be considered
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,
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

I never knew you,
my brother,
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.

my brother.

© 2015 Joseph Powell