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,
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

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. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

As My Bugle Gently Weeps (11/22/63)

a moment of silence,
for a moment
I will not forget;
for a man,
I will not forget;
I stand,
with eyes closed
and lips slightly pursed,
I raise my bugle,
to emit
one last goodbye;
trying to be still,
trying to be calm,
I choke on a note,
as a tear
from my horn.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Monday, November 18, 2013

Blue Is The Magic Number

though I’m not one to adhere to,
or be defined by, labels;
nor inclined to be fitted into certain parameters;
if you were to press me,
or choose to dig down,
to my very essence,
to the core of who I am--
you would find
that blue
is my favorite color;

the color
that inspired rhapsodies
and baseball teams;
it is the signifier of a particular mood,
the foundation
of nearly every musical genre
on this planet,
if the pictures from space
are to be believed,
is also blue;

it is the color of harmony--
if you don’t believe me,
imagine our country’s flag without it;
could be one of the reasons,
why we’re called the United States
(could you imagine if we
were only made up of
only red states?);

is the color of life;
it is
the color of God’s glory,
one of the primary colors
in His divine palette;

is the color of this poem,
if its words
could be enveloped
in any particular color,
each letter,
a different shade
or variation
of indigo,
even those words
make blue sound beautiful,
which it is.

I give you
which is,
in a sense,
giving of myself;
and I hope,
that you will accept it,
in the spirit
of which it was given,
which is also

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Joseph Powell-Poetry Open Mic @Priscilla's-Toluca Lake

Friday, October 04, 2013

Man In The Mirror Redux

As I looked in the mirror
this afternoon,
I could swear
I saw my father's face
looking back at me;
I didn't know if I should
smile or cry--
at the man I've become
and am still becoming;
or cry,
at the man who wasn't there
to help me do so;
I chose to neither
as I walked out
of the restroom
with my head held high.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

let me be--a new poem

let me be the tears you can not shed;
let me be the mirror you can not face;
let me be what causes your screams to dissipate;
let me be what causes your fears to evaporate;
let me be what inspires you;
that which comforts you,
which shows you the face of God;
let me be your breath;
the first thing you see in the morning,
and the last thing you see at night,
so that when you sleep,
all you dream of
is me,
loving you thru the dark hours
and the valley of the shadow
that used to haunt you;

let me be the words that flow from your pen,
and from your mouth when you stand on that stage;
let me be your applause;
the answer to your prayer;
let me be what makes you laugh,
let me be the art that knows no equal-
the dance that no one else can dance,
the song that no one else can sing,
the poem that will never be surpassed
or replicated;
let me be what helps you get through this life-
holds your hand,
walks beside you,
kisses your lips,
caresses your brow,
holds you up;
let me be everything…
let me be.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Blood On The Grass (for Trayvon Martin)

Close your eyes
and listen--
Can you hear it?
It’s the cry of yet another Rachel,
weeping for her children,
and refusing to be comforted;
it echoes 
in the cry of Sybrina Fulton,
and Wanda Johnson;
it reverberates even still
from Mamie Till Mobley,
now since departed 
and reunited
with her beloved
and taken-too-soon Emmitt;

can you hear it?
the collective cries
of scores of mothers
who will never see their sons
grow old,
never fall in love,
or pursue their dreams;

you might just also hear
the cries
of blood from the ground--
cries for justice,
justice that may never come,
because we choose not to listen;
choose to keep our eyes closed
to the fact that our children
are dying needlessly,
and with little
to no recourse.
I’ve heard it said,
that it would be better
if a millstone
was hung around the neck
of one who were to cause 
a little one to stumble;
and yet,
perpetrators are allowed to roam
trampling underfoot,
blood left on the grass,
having ignored screams 
for mercy;
while we care more for the child not yet born
than for the one who is already
among us.

I want you to open your eyes
and imagine,
that it was your son,
your daughter,
your brother,
your sister,
pleading for their lives,
begging for mercy,
crying for help,
for justice.
What would you do then?
What would you do?
What will you do?

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Writing's On The Wall-A Poem

This is the title poem from the new book, "The Writing's On The Wall", currently available thru

The writing on the wall
that I drove past
down Barham Blvd.,
“ Do something good today”;
So, I’m writing this poem
for you,
not an abstract ‘you’,
but the concrete ‘you’;
The you,
I always write for;
The you,
I have always written for;

I am writing this
on the wall of your heart,
I am writing this
on the wall of the city ,
a poem that can’t be
taken down
or painted over;
it will be etched in forever,
written in love,
dipped in my blood,
my sweat,
my tears,
painted, carved
in broad strokes
visible to every naked eye
that is willing to see,
willing to look;
in fact,
you will have to look
because you will not
be able
to turn away,
to ignore--
truth is like that,
beauty is like that.

I am writing this
for you,
not because you deserve it,
not because I deserve it,
but because,
it has to be done;
something good
has to be done,
because so much
of what’s being done
is not good,
is not right,
is not true,
not real--
love is being commodified,
the writing is on the wall;
children are starving in the streets,
the writing is on the wall;
people dictating who I can love,
the writing is on the wall;
the have’s still dominating
the have-not’s,
and the writing is on the wall;

people making asses of themselves
on national TV
for millions of dollars,
while people,
who are molding the minds
of future generations,
aren’t making enough
to make ends meet,
the writing is on the wall;
I can’t afford
to take care
of myself
or the people I love
because some insurance company
gets to dictate
how much I have to pay,
the writing is on the wall.

These are not the ramblings
of a mad poet;
these are the words
of a poet
who is mad,
like you should be mad,
the concrete ‘you’,
and willing to do something about it,
something good,
like I’m trying to do
something good,
by writing this poem,
by writing this book;
because voices need to be heard,
because truth needs to be made visible,
because there are walls
that need to be written on,
with the blood, sweat,
and tears
of those who
wish to do something
I have written this,
for you,
and now,
I am handing you
the pen.

Do something good!

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Sunday, July 21, 2013

It's Here!!

My new collection of poetry, The Writing's On The Wall, is now currently available in both print and digital via Amazon. It's been a while coming but am happy and proud to say after much deliberation(and procrastination), it is now  ready for purchase and perusal. Thank you all for your patience and support. I hope you are inspired, encouraged, maybe even entertained. Peace.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Writing's On The Wall

It's been a long time coming, but my new book, The Writing's On The Wall", will be available for download in the next day or so. So, if you own a Kindle, IPad, IPhone, or any electronic reading device, you will be able to purchase and enjoy it at your leisure. I am very proud of this effort and am hoping for it to be perished widely. I thank everyone for their support. Peace.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Writing's On The Wall

My new collection of poetry, The Writing's On The Wall-I am anticipating its release during the month of July 2013.  Please stay tuned for more details as they become available.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I Simply Wrote The Word...

I simply wrote the word, I. My mind is as blank as the screen before me, though a million words and images are racing through my head, I can’t seem to settle on a single one. I am afraid, I am weighed down by stress, which affects my body, which affects my mind. My one prayer is to make it through the day that is now. I don’t know what tomorrow holds--I do  know that I long for a better life, where I get to do what I want, which is write. In which I can love someone who wants to be with me...period. Where I can see my daughter develop into the woman she is becoming. Where I’m appreciated for the art that I continue trying to make as opposed to the work that someone else thinks I should be doing. I still long to travel--I am well aware that there is a whole world out there and I am hoping, with however long I have to live, to see at least some of it.

I simply wrote the word, I. Because it starts with me. I am fighting every day, not to be held back--by myself or by others, by outside forces beyond my control.  I desire to just be--not confined to some job description or a paycheck; not to others’ perception of me, or what they think I should be doing; not to some vague notion of what it takes to get ahead in this life.

I simply wrote the word, I. I am trying to fight the urge not to call it quits. To keep the demons at bay. I am more than this life I’m currently living. Not sure if my spirit is still willing, though I’m well aware that my body is beyond weak. But for the grace of God go I...

simply write the word, which is where it all begins, where it all began. And God has always been in the details...He or She created them. Whether we choose to acknowledge that or not.

I simply wrote the word, trying not to exercise futility. I do not care if this is not making sense. Nowadays, most of, if not all of it is not making any sense. The best that we can hope for is that we can avoid those who believe that they call the shots, that they get to determine that our life is no longer valuable--whether it’s by plane crash, or bombing, or shooting, or drunk driving. Like the man said, “I would like to live a long life--longevity has its place.” The tragic irony being that he never got to--none of us know if we’re going to. Which is simply why I write the word...

I, because other than the grace of God, and the love of my family, and of a good woman, and a few select friends, my words are all I got. It’s probably all I need in this crazy, beautfiul, fucked-up world. Another man wrote, that we are all terminal cases. This terminal case hopes to make a difference in the lives of other terminal cases until mine is closed and I’ve been filed away and I become a memory that people, loved ones talk about at gatherings.  These words that I simply write, I feel, are all I have control over and even then, I’m not so sure, because I’m at the mercy of whatever muse I’ve been assigned to, and most times, she shows up when she wants to, the bitch!

I simply write the word, I, because I continue to look for truth, whereever I can find it. I don’t know any other way. Because it helps me to understand, because sometimes it gives me peace. Because sometimes, I feel like I’ve given some value to the world, even if no one else ever tells me so. Because there’s so much that is not of value that is being put out there, that someone has to fight against it, like a team of doctors fighting against a disease.

I simply wrote the word, I, because I wanted to fill this small hour of time, with something constructive, perhaps even meaningful, as opposed to filling it with something that would be a complete waste of my time and effort, which I seem to be more wont to do. Yes, it is rambling, yes, it may not be coherent, maybe it might not mean a damn thing, but have you watched the news or listened to the pundits lately? I’m just sayin’. And I’ve just said enough...for now at least.
My time is up, for now. Until next time. Thanks for reading, those of you who have chosen to take the time to do so. I just simply wrote the words...what you choose to do with them is up to you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

When I Write

when I write,
I see visions;
this still-young man
dreams dreams;
when I write,
I hear the voice of God
in a still, small whisper;
I hear my mama talking;
the child I once was,
telling me not to give up,
to not squander the promise,
the talent that was once
fresh and new;
when I write,
I remember women I’ve loved
and the few who’ve loved me back;
the friends I’ve made,
and, unfortunately,
because of time
or distance
or death,
and I don’t want to talk about that,
for that’s a whole other poem
I’ve already written;

when I write,
I am not restricted
by race,
or color,
or creed,
or sexual orientation;
my muse
is an equal opportunity
when I write,
I try to stay
outside the lines;
my verse is
and will always remain

when I write,
is distilled
from its purest form
and reconfigured
through the words
I try to place
on the page
with as much force
and passion
as I can
possibly summon;
when I write,
I believe
a word
is a terrible thing to waste
and I try to choose wisely.

when I write,
I am trying to breathe life
into chaos;
illuminate truth
where there is darkness;

when I write,
I am trying to destroy prejudices
and open eyes;
spread love,
where there is hatred;

when I write,
I want it to be like the blood
that washes away all sins;
I want it to be like water
in a dry and thirsty land;

when I write,
I’m not writing with anyone in mind,
but with everyone in mind,
because everyone needs truth,
and everyone needs love,
and everyone needs beauty,
and everyone needs light,
and everyone,
everyone needs
And that what is I think of...

when I write.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I Don't Do Haikus

I will try to be as concise
as I possibly can be;
try to convey as much truth
within each line,
as can be mustered--
but I don't do haikus.

My verse needs to be free,
in a form that allows it
to breathe,
to move,
to become its own thing.

I want the words to go
where they're gonna go;
to take you,
where you need to be taken;
to caress you,
whisper to you,
make love to you;
slap you in the face,
shake some sense into you,
douse cold water
on your hypocrisies
and lies,
your prejudices
and myopia.

And, I,
cannot do that
with haikus,
not in the way
that they need to be done;
and not in the way
that I need to say
what needs to be said.

Believe me,
I respect the haiku,
I admire the form,
the simplicity,
the beauty;
and the skill it takes
to create one,
let alone,
But just as haikus
are not for everyone,
neither are
the verses I write,
in whatever shape
they choose to manifest themselves.

My only hope
is that,
whoever chooses to read them,
will come to respect
and admire
what it took to create them
and find within them
the truth,
the simplicity,
the beauty,
as in any haiku.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Face, The Truth

I told the man,
staring back at me,
‘If you hear nothing else,
listen to this;
pay no mind
to the naysayers;
the ne’er-do-wells
and the malcontents,
lost in their own capacity
to bitch and moan;
you are destined for better,
my friend;
you are a genius,
an artist...
don’t shake your head at me,
you are.
They will never understand,
they never did.
This world is not ready for someone
as beautiful as you;
they are not ready for the truth
you have to show them;
but you have to do it anyway;
you have to live it,
you have to create it;
you just have to be.
I see in your eyes,
my lovely friend;
if you ever again should doubt this,
and you probably will,
I am here for you.
All you need do
is to look in my eyes--
I am the only mirror
you are ever gonna need.”
I told this to the man,
as he stared back at me;
I’m pretty sure he heard me
and understood,
because he smiled
as I turned
and walked away from
the mirror.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Sunday, April 07, 2013

In A Moment Of Silence

on a peaceful Sunday morning
I am thinking about grace
I am praying for faith
I want my tired eyes to see
I want my deaf ears to hear
my words are few,
these days,
not like when I was young;
though I know,
my every breath
is a gift from you,
a song of praise to you.
I also know
that I know even less now
than I thought I did
when I was younger.
but truth will always out
and this I cling to
as I sit outside a church
on this Sunday morning
not certain if I can go in.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Happy Birthday, Dr. Maya Angelou

A Hymn For Sister Maya

The epitome of eloquence,
The embodiment of elegance;
Mother Africa descended
In all her glorious splendor.
Her voice,
Once silent long ago,
Now springs forth
Like the thunder
Of a thousand rainstorms
And just as nourishing;
Like the still small voice
Of a gentle angel,
Bearing glad tidings
Of great joy.
Her beauty
Knows no equal;
Her words
Are like fine silk,
Smooth to the touch,
Pleasing to the skin;
A double‐edged sword
Piercing bone and marrow,
For she canʹt help
But bring forth truth,
The truth.
It is her gift to us‐‐
Her calling,
Her lifeʹs blood,
Her duty
As one raised up from the wilderness,
Not as a reed swayed by the wind,
But a prophetess of the highest order.
She is
That heaven we find in a wildflower,
Our mirror to nature;
But not only that.
She is
The storefront preacher;
The street rapper;
The social worker;
That favorite teacher.
She is
Mother, daughter;
Sister, lover;
Our fielder of dreams
And conveyer of nightmares.
She is
The cry of Rachel
Weeping for her children
And refusing to be comforted.
She is
The song of the virgin Mary
In praise to her God.
The world is brighter
Because she has shone her light
In our dark places.
Her candle
Will one day
Blow out,
But the flame
That she has ignited
Will burn on,
For that is
What flames do.

© Joseph Powell

MLK Redux

In commemoration of the 45th anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I resubmit this poem. R.I.P. Dr. King.

A man
Not divine,
But touched by
the divine;
A man,
born of a woman,
and a black woman
at that;
A man,
who was blessed
with a gift
to unite
and to divide;
to comfort the afflicted
and afflict the comfortable.

A man,
just one man,
who helped a nation
open its eyes
and lift its ears
to the cries
of its own people.

A man,
like you,
like me--
no greater,
no lesser,
A man,
like so many
come before him;
like so many
who continue to come
after him.

Is that you?
Any of you?
out there,
is waiting
for an answer.

© 2012 Joseph Powell

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Quotes For The Day

"Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind." --Bertrand Russell

"To educate is to create a critical spirit and not just to transfer knowledge." --Archbishop Oscar Romero

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

A Reposting of Lo, How Two Roses Not Yet Blooming (for Martin and Marvin)

On this day in April
I saw two roses,
not quite in full bloom
just yet,
fall to the ground.
And cried
blood-red tears.
'What's going on?'
'How long?'
Why do the good
always die young?
Always at the hand
Of those who don't understand
or who have not ears to hear
or eyes to see
and truth
in flesh beholden.
Even God must weep,
I hope,
for creation yet incomplete,
is most assuredly
a tragedy,
for which
there are never enough tears,
blood-red or otherwise
and all we are left with
after the crying and the weeping
is the remembering
and wondering
what might have been?

© 2009 Joseph Powell

Monday, April 01, 2013

She Redux (inspired by the poem, She Walks In Beauty by Lord Byron)

She talks
to me
in poetry
in still small voices
and seductive whispers
and speaks to me
of eternal life
and love unending;
her tone never wavers
but resonates,
giving me chills,
caressing my body,
calming my soul.

She looks
at me
with eyes so fair
and unrelenting
of the tender eyes
and darkest hair
of the rosy lips
and warmest smile
who can caress
with one look,
one touch,
one word.
of the giving heart
and sweet embrace.
second to angels
made in the image of God
for God too is beautiful,

who walks in beauty
like the night
and stirs men’s souls to song.
the rarest find
the precious pearl
who’s touched me to the very core
who walks in beauty
She who walks
She who

© Joseph Powell

Sunday, March 17, 2013

March Came In Like A Lion

March came in like a lion
and knocked me
the fuck out.
Love is supposed to be gentle;
but first,
it hits you
like a ton of bricks;
like the stray bullet
you didn't see coming;
like that lightning strike;
like a thief in the night;

there's no way to be
ready for it,
no matter how many times
you've been smitten
or touched,
as it were;
it's best to accept it
when it does come your way,
thank the Lord above
for its manifestation,
in whatever form
that happens to be,
(because love is not limited
to your conception
of what it's suppose to be
or with whom),
and carry on,
in the knowledge
that you've been chosen,
and isn't that
a wonderful thing?

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Sunday, March 10, 2013

An Ode To The Chi

From the cradle to the grave,
you'll be my guiding light,
my untamed night;
my big shoulders to lean on,
my city, by the bay;

You're in my blood,
I carry you in my bones,
like valuable cargo
that I guard with my life;
I may live elsewhere,
but you're the mistress
who has my heart ;

Images of you swirl
in my brain,
I smile at your name;
from Uptown
to South Chi;
Hyde Park
to Oak Park;
and downtown,
the Loop!
And, don't get me started
on the lakefront--
never felt so good!
I don't miss your hawk,
though I do remember
that his fierceness
is what helped me
to feel alive,
walking these city streets,
which recently beckoned me home,
on my
too long-awaited,
all-too-brief visit.

But I do know,
I will answer the call,
I will heed your cry,
to return,
to be kissed by
spring's soft, moist lips,
caressed by
your windy fingers,
serenaded by
your jazzy riffs
and your bluesy vocals;
tempted by
your savory delights,
dazzled by
your glowing allure
in all its glorious splendor;

like the man said,
'you're my kind of town',
from the cradle
to the grave,
you will always
be my home.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Saturday, February 23, 2013


I was recently told
that nobody likes
a sad clown--
that they're too frightening.
My thought is,
they're afraid of the truth,
as I think about
the two faces of drama--
a symbol on how life
is a tragicomedy
of epic proportions.

I am reminded
of the phrase,
"laughing to keep
from crying",
and how that doesn't
always stop you
from crying.
That the tears
of a clown
are just as real
and valuable
as the laughter
he can sometimes

And that,
if you are frightened
by him,
you are frightened
by yourself,
for we are all
sad clowns,
in a way,
on this elaborate stage,
in this massive circus,
the greatest show
on Earth.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Poet

We find our hero,
at it again,
hunched over,
bleeding profusely
upon blank pages,
writing his life away;
at this moment,
nothing else matters;
he's not even aware
of the music
playing in the background,
or is it Mozart?

And there's a woman
in the other room,
calling out his name
for the umpteenth time,
but her screaming
falls on deaf ears,
because the only words
that matter
are flowing
on the pages,
in a torrential rush,
to which he feels obligated,
to which he feels compelled,
to which he is utterly consumed;

he will not be moved,
he will not be deterred,
not by love,
not by music,
not by time;

it is his gift,
both his blessing
and his curse,
until the very last stroke,
the very last word,
the very last breath,

he writes,
he writes,
he writes...
I write,
I write,
I write.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Monday, February 18, 2013

Linda, in Spanish, means beautiful

To say the name
is to reflect
on something beautiful,
in a language
that evokes beauty,
that embodies strength;

to say the name,
is to inhale
a breath of fresh air,
to exhale
a cleansing sigh of relief
like a long held,
deeply felt prayer--
more like a song...
that's it,
like a song
that can't be sung
in any other language;

to say,
her name,
is to rest
in the comfort
of having made
the acquaintance
of someone
who is
and means
in the only language,
other than love,

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Friday, January 25, 2013

Boo Radley's Blues

I'm the neighbor
that everyone keeps
talkin' bout,
but no one wants
to know;
the one your good book
tells you,
you're supposed to love;

I don't mean no harm,
nor do I try to
cause trouble;
I lurk in the shadows
I just keep to myself.

if you allow me,
I can be a good friend;
maybe even,
come to your rescue
when the timing's right;

for if I've learned anything
in all my years,
is that we're all
lurking in the shadows,
waiting to be recognized,
waiting to be rescued.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

A Kiss, Just

It was just a kiss--
like the song says,
a kiss is still a kiss;
but there's a reason why
fairy tales attribute
great power to it--

princesses are awakened;
spells are broken;

for me,
it opened up
a new chapter;
made real
a new possibility.

it's the simplest things
that can bring down mountains,
or awaken
a dead and broken heart.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Few, Short Declarative Sentences On This Particular Day In January

you can’t stop me
I am,
I am,
I am
a man;

you can’t stop me
I am
and I deserve
to be here;

you can’t stop me
I am
an undocumented immigrant
trying to make
a better life
for my family;

you can’t stop me
I am a woman,
for my own body
and accountable
only to God;

you can’t stop me
I am a poet,
and my words
are my weapons,
which, like you,
I also have
the right to bear.

© 2013 Joseph Powell

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Miss Wonder

I miss a caress;
fingertips and palm,
alighting upon
my bald head;
a soft, wet kiss
that lasts more
than three days;
eyes that peer through
to the soul
that is the only one
that matters;

I wonder,
to the God
who created love,
to the soulmate
I guess I
haven’t found yet,
if there is a one
who possesses
this caress,
this kiss,
those eyes;

I miss,
and go on
go on...
go on...

© 2013 Joseph Powell