Thursday, August 17, 2006

911 Redux(World Trade Center)

9-11 Redux

Echoes of F.D.R.
Ring in my head—
“A day which will live
in infamy”;
Like the phone
Which awoke
Me from sleep.
While somewhere,
Scores were dying.
And now I find it harder
To sleep
‘cause now I hear blood
crying from the ground.

People will ask,
‘Do you remember where
you were when?’
And I will say,
‘Yeah, in a state of shock,’
which turned into
a New York
state of mind,
wishing I could stop
the madness
that crashed into
the twin brothers
in this first year
of the new century
on the 11th day
of the 9th month—
a day whose numbers
are linked
with the number
for emergency;
a day when chaos ruled
and the news became
a liturgical obituary;

when my bloodshot eyes
were red, not from lack of sleep,
but from the carnage
that filled my TV screen;
when the local news
battled the world news
for body counts.

They say in space,
‘No one can hear you scream’,
But on this day,
I think I heard
The whole universe
A sound matched only
By the falling of teardrops
In a forest of humanity.

© Joseph Powell

World Trade Center(A Review)

The defining moment of our generation, the attacks of 9/11, are brilliantly reenacted in the powerful new film from Oliver Stone, "World Trade Center". There are those who say that it's too soon for a film like this or the earlier release, "United 93"(which I have yet to see), but five years hence, if we've learned anything from history, it's that we should never forget. And Stone does an amazing job of reminding us of the events of that day--from the shadow of the first plane just before it hits the first tower, to the courage and determination of the first responders to the scene at the twin towers; the confusion of what was really transpiring that morning, to the impact it had on the families of the police and firefighters who were doing their duty without realizing that they were diving into the belly of a fierce and relentless beast, from which they might not return.

Whatever you might think of Stone, his politics, or the controversies and conspiracy theories that tend to surround most of his films, this film is an exercise in brilliant, albeit straightforward moviemaking. In the words of Dragnet's Jack Webb, it's "just the facts, ma'am". In addition to making us relive the horrors of that day, we enter into the story of two of the first responders on that day, Sgt. John McLoughlin(subtly played by Nicholas Cage) and Officer William Jimeno(in a bravura performance by Michael Pena, recently of "Crash"). They were just two of an unfortunately small group of survivors from the destruction and we are made to feel that we are with them when they are eventually trapped beneath the rubble of the buildings. Actors are usually required to use every part of their body when performing, whether it's stage or screen(Cage is a perfect case in point in almost every film we've ever seen him in), and I believe it's a remarkable feat when these two actors spend the majority of this movie, trapped with only their faces mostly showing, are able to convey the tension and uncertainty of what those officers must have been feeling in that situation. Kudos also to the two strong actresses who play their wives, Maria Bello(of "The Cooler" and "A History Of Violence"), who plays Donna McLoughlin and Maggie Gyllenhaal(of "Secretary") who plays Allison Jimeno. These are two of the better female performances of the year thus far, not to mention fine additions to what are strongly impressive resumes and they capture the strength and conviction that these two women must have faced(and possibly what every police officers' wives face when their husbands go off to work on what is supposedly just another typical day). There is also fine work from some of the smaller supporting roles of family members and fellow officers, which gives us a sense of the fortitude and determination of the New Yorkers that were involved.

This is another of a long list of Oliver Stone's impressive films(which include "Platoon", "Wall Steet", and "Born On The Fourth Of July", which simply tells a story of real people in unique and sometimes very harrowing circumstances and how they deal with those and how it changes their lives. And as with those films, after viewing them, we are somehow the better for it, if for no other reason, that we are reminded of humanity's potential for good. Sometimes you can't ask for a film to do much more than that.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Hopelessly Shameless Plug(Is There Any Other Kind?)

For those who may be interested in and/or looking for some good poetry to read, I am currently selling copies of my most recent chapbook of poetry, “Mofo’ Risin’ “. It is a collection of 17 poems that I self-published in 2004, mostly inspired by the aftereffects of a divorce I went through at that time and the process of trying to work through such a drastic life change. The book is on sale for $7 and can be purchased by contacting me through email at Some of the poems I’ve published in this blog are featured in the book. Other excerpts can be found at and, the site I used to self-publish the book. There’s also an excellent review of it at If any of you have enjoyed my work thus far in this blog, I would strongly implore that you consider buying a copy of my book. Thank you for your time and patronage and happy reading. God bless!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

With Thanks To Edvard Munch

I just want to fucking scream. I want to scream until all the blues that are pent up in my soul comes pouring out; until all the murderous violence I feel inside bleeds out of my pores. I want to scream for all the stupidity I see in the world, both near and far. The stupidity of an endless war; of people still being judged by the color of their skin; of poor and homeless people living less than a stone’s throw away from the offices and homes of the wealthy. The stupidity of ‘trying to squeeze a dollar out of a dime when you haven’t even got a cent’. Of a president who can’t see the forest for the trees that he’s mowing down to pave way for more of the same bullshit he’s been laying for the past 6 years.

I want to scream the truth! I want to scream for a better life—not necessarily of fame or fortune, but one of realness and honesty. To not be afraid of what I want to be or want to do in this fucked-up world. I want my poetry to matter, Mr. Gioia, wherever you are! I want to live my raison d’etre to the fullest possible degree. To still be able to create beauty out of pain; to celebrate love and faith and sex and all the rest. In other words, to be human, as humanly possible.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mofo' Risin'

This poem, I believe, speaks for itself. It’s the title piece of my most recent chapbook, published in 2004.

Mofo’ Risin’

The beautiful
Fucked-up man
Has left
And he’s
Taken his
What’s left
Of his
And manhood
And his
Peanut butter,
Only choosy
Choose creamy
Peanut butter,
Jif or otherwise.

he’s going
to devote
to his
only real
motherfuckin’ men
write poetry.

And he’s
to devote
to being
a friend
to his friends
and being
a friend
to those
who need
only real
motherfuckin’ men
are true friends.

And he’s
To devote himself
To finding
A woman
Thinks that
He is
Much of
A man
And can
Much of
A husband
Only real
Motherfuckin’ men
How to be
If they
Have to
Trial and
And by
Fucking up
And trying
And again
They never
Had a
Motherfuckin’ man
Show them
To be
A real
Motherfuckin’ man
And how
It would
Take a real
Motherfuckin’ woman
Understand that
A real
A chance.

In the meantime,
This beautiful
Fucked-up man
Will rise
Dust himself
Move on
With his cross
To bear,
What’s left
Of his
And manhood
And his
Peanut butter,
Only choosy
Choose creamy
Peanut butter.

Be on
The lookout
For him;
He might
A good friend
To you;
He could
Be your
Next lover
Or husband;
He might
Just read
This poem
Make you
A sandwich
That’s what
Motherfuckin’ men

© Copyright 2003 Joseph Powell

Monday, February 20, 2006

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.