Thursday, June 01, 2017

Sony Holland-Soft Power

Joni Mitchell.

The name of one of many singers I wish I could say I know. An unmistakable voice, like many of the best and renowned vocalists of the last century--distinctive, ethereal, angelic, a voice that can evoke melancholy and joy, sometimes in the same song, like many a jazz and blues singer. I offer the song, "River", as evidence of that sentiment.

Sony Holland.

The name of a singer who I can say that I know. And after listening to her new album, Soft Power, I can unequivocally say I am beyond glad to have made her acquaintance just a few short years ago. Everything I said in the previous paragraph, can be said of Sony, if based just on this album alone. It's no coincidence that I bring up Joni Mitchell's name, because upon first listen, it's the name that immediately came to mind, not least of when, she does a cover of Ms. Mitchell's "A Case of You". But, that in no way means that she mimics Mitchell's vocals, for Sony's voice is all her own, on this song, as well as on several original tracks and her covers of "Streets of Philadelphia" and "Moon River". Listening to her sing is like having a conversation with an old friend, especially if you're driving in your car, which is what I was doing while listening to this album. And I would say that, even if I didn't personally know the singer. But, once again, I am more than glad to say that I do. And I would strongly recommend that you get to know her too, by getting a copy of Soft Power. The title is as applicable to the vocalist herself as it is to the contents of the album. And as summer approaches and thoughts of vacations and road trips loom, you might just want another traveling companion along for the ride. I submit to you, Sony Holland, as evidence of that sentiment.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

What Christmas Means To Me

What Christmas means to me—
                        that somebody loved us enough to care; that somebody stills loves me enough to care. That family is not always about blood. That it’s not about the size of the gift, but the size of the heart of the person who gave the gift.  It means not caring about a particular greeting, but that you took the time to acknowledge the receiver of the greeting, regardless of however you choose to say it. That no one has to feel alone; that no one has to be made to feel guilty if they are not feeling the joy of the season. That said joy should not be dependent on what the calendar says, which might make the season, when it does come, that much more meaningful.

It means we still need light in the darkness. It means “peace on earth and goodwill toward men”, should not be a sentiment on a greeting card, but a dominant concept that we are all striving towards. I wouldn’t have a problem listening to carols or hymns all year long, if it meant that our lives reflected the words that we were singing. It means that we don’t have to believe the same things, but we should see the other as needing of love and recognition of each other’s humanity.

It means that many of us might require ghostly visitations, a la Scrooge; that, like the Grinch, be reminded that “Christmas doesn’t come from a store; that it perhaps means a little bit more”.

It means that for many of us, like George Bailey, we need to be reminded that each of our lives touches so many others; that it would leave an awful hole, if we weren’t around.

It means that the refugee, the homeless family, the hungry child will always have a place to be, even if it’s a dirty and smelly barn.

It means that wherever there are cracks, the light will always get in; that the broken will always be blessed; and the imperfect, holy.

It means love, and if I never give you anything else concrete or tangible, something you can taste, smell, feel; whether you are a stone’s throw away or thousands of miles away;
whether we communicate via Facebook, email, by phone, or if we are fortunate to do so, in person, I sincerely hope, with every fiber of my broken, imperfect, cracked being, that you know that you are loved—

you who’ve recently lost a spouse, or child, or parent;
you who may feel that no one understands you;
you who feel that no one sees you because of the color of your skin, your sexuality, or your religion(or even, lack thereof);
you who may not even have anywhere to go this time of year;
you, who just needs to hear that someone loves you, even if you don’t want to believe it right now.

I hope that what Christmas means to you, if nothing else, is that you are loved, from someone who cares. Peace be with you all.

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