Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Auld Lang Syne

As we come to the close of yet another year, I am struck by the effect that choices, even one singular life choice, can have on, not only one's life, but on the lives within the realm of that one life, which can dramatically alter the courses of those lives, for better or for worse. Not that this was a suddenly new revelation or epiphanic moment. Outside of my two marriages and, subsequently, divorces, the last major life-altering decision I made was the decision to remain and set up stakes in southern California, 22 years ago, after deciding to part ways with the job that had brought me there in the first place.

This year, on the cusp of my celebrating reaching the mid-century mark(presuming, God willing and the creek don't rise, the possibility of living to see the full century mark), I made, what is, ostensibly, another life-altering decision, which involved pulling up those aforementioned stakes and setting them down in a place that, as was southern California(none too familiar)--Nashville, Tennessee. And with such a move,
the prospect of new opportunities; new friends; new highs and, most likely, new lows. With such a move, I have left behind lifelong friends and a stepdaughter, who now, with the rarest of exceptions and special occasions, I will get to see via phone calls, texting, and Facebook; memories, great and small, tragic and comic; missed opportunities and roads not taken, for good or ill. With such a move, I have benefitted from a closer relationship with my girlfriend, Cindi and gotten to know her family better; I am closer in proximity to my own blood family, many of whom, I had the pleasure of spending time with and look forward to doing more in the coming year; I have become steadily involved in the growing poetry community here and look forward to not only expanding my horizons within, but also branching out into other arenas(literally and figuratively), both within and without, along with the prospect of becoming more prolific and diverse in my literary output.

As I look forward to a new year and the second half of my life's journey, I leave myself open and welcoming to the experiences that will inevitably come, both within my control and outside of it; hopefully letting God lead the way without too much interference on my part, aside from only what is necessary and warranted. I look forward to more visits with my mother and other members of my family; to re-engaging and reconnecting with friends not seen in many a year; to my daughter's graduation from art school and her budding emergence into the art and animation world and all that that entails, as well as her continued development into the woman she is steadily becoming; to the ever-growing effect that my girlfriend will have on my life and the course it will take, as well as her effect on the company of her employ, whose growth has become dependent upon.

And on a much broader perspective, as I look toward this new year, I can only hope, pray, and wish: for more understanding between the citizens of this world; that greed and reckless power are trumped by compassion and a better grasp of the needs of others, no matter where they are or come from; that the role of the artist(regardless of medium) supersedes that of the politician and those who think they have control over us; that truth and love shine brighter than the sun; and that violence, in any form, is no longer a necessity--whether you're a cop or a soldier; a husband who just lost the means to care for his family; a mother who has exhausted all avenues of caring for her children; or a young man or woman who's never been taught or shown the value of life.

As we sing auld lang syne to the year just passed, and hosannas to the year about to be birthed, I wish us all peace; I wish us all hope; I wish us all beauty; I wish us all truth; and, above all, I wish us all, love. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Intifada (for the family of Michael Brown, Jr. and the people of Ferguson, MO)

I want to start a riot...
with my words;
I want to be the language
for the unheard;
release Molotov cocktails
in a barrage
of free verse;
explode word bombs
of lyrical meter
into the faces
of the unjust;
I want to be
what the powers-that-be
are unable to hear,
when mothers
are screaming for children
they will never see again;
be the blood
that cries from the ground;
the truth,
they're unwilling to see
when they're face-to-face
with another young black man,
another young black woman,
doesn't deserve to die
at their hands...
at anybody's hands;

I want to be the change
that we need to see in the world,
that says,
that every life matters,
every life matters,
from the womb
it is time
for the tomb;
I want to be
for Mike Brown;
for Tamir Rice;
for Vonderrit Myers;
for Akai Gurley;
for John Crawford;
for Tanesha Anderson;
for Eric Garner;
for Renisha McBride;
for Jordan Davis;
for Trayvon Martin;
for Oscar Grant;
for the ones we don't hear about,
and the ones, that,...;
I want to be justice,
for us all.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Friday, August 22, 2014

The Summer Of Our Malcontent(in memory of Michael al)

Here's a revolutionary act--
how about,
I'm not going to write
another damn poem
or in tribute to,
or in memory of,
another young black person
gunned down
before their prime,
before their time?
I feel
I've written enough about that;
in fact,
too many
poems, songs,
and polemics
have been
exerted forth
on the subject.
And you know what?
It hasn't changed
a damn thing!
we've passed laws
against discrimination
and police brutality,
and guess what?

You know what I'm saying!

So, no,
we don't need another poem,
another ballad,
another talking head,
or poisoned pen,
expounding and
on lives lost
and unceremoniously;
we need
no agenda,
in law enforcement
and government;
in our schools
by God,
in our churches;
in our communities
in our boardrooms;
from the President
down to
the janitor
cleaning toilets
in some
in some non-descript
to have the courage,
the intestinal fortitude
to say,
'It's been more than enough,
for far, far too long,
and damnit,
we're doing something about it;
from shoring up
and storing up
our communities,
to demilitarizing
and retraining our police;
from taking the money
that's going into the pockets
of corporate shareholders
and putting it into the pockets
of neighborhoods
that feel that nobody cares,
that nobody sees,
that their lives don't matter.

But you know what?
I've lived as long
as the Civil Rights Act
has been in existence,
and I've seen over that time,
more blood of innocents spilt;
and I've seen
the righteous forsaken;
and I've seen
promises broken;
and I've just done,
what I said at the outset,
I wasn't going to.
I will lay down my pen,
close my eyes to the light,
and pray,
to a God
I hope is listening,
in spite of my doubt,
in spite of history,
past and present,
that another young black child
lies down safe tonight
and awakes
to a new day.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


This is not going to be
one of those poems,
where I claim to see God in nature;
I do see God in the cloud-filled skies;
in the thunder and lightning
of a summer rainstorm;
in the tree-strewn woods
that is my Tennessee backyard;
but more than that,
I see God
in the man standing at the end
of the interstate off-ramp,
selling a little piece of his soul,
a little piece of his hard-earned work
to maybe keep a roof over his head;
I see God,
in the person
stepping up to the mike,
to share their truth--
no matter how raw,
or profane,
for if I learned anything
in the religion class
I had in college,
it's that truth is truth;

I see God,
in the daughter who loves me
from 2000 miles away,
who I know
is becoming
the woman
and artist
she needs to be;
I see God
in the woman,
who everyday
tells me,
in no uncertain terms,
"I love you",
that I am enough--
who I am,
is enough;
in the mother,
with every fiber
of her being,
through hard-fought sweat
hard-cried tears,
raised me
to be the man
I still sometimes
have doubts
I'm becoming;
in the brothers
and sisters
even though
we don't always communicate,
are more connected to me
than even I understand;

and yes,
though it doesn't need to be said,
but because this is a poem,
it must be--
I see God
in the reflection
looking back at me
every morning
I awake,
that when others see me,
they too
can see

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Friday, July 18, 2014

In The Name Of...

If you can no longer cry for the fallen,
and yet,
turn a tragedy into a punchline;
if you are able to look into the face of a child,
and only see
an enemy to your privacy
and complacency;
if your ego has become such,
that you'd rather spend all your waking hours,
fighting those who are trying to do good,
as opposed to,
working together for the common good;
if the suffering of the least of these,
has become a burden you no longer wish to bear
have never ever borne;
then speak to me not,
of your humanity,
or of the God you say you believe in,
who, being merciful,
gives no credence
to your claim;
you, sir or madam,
have lost the privilege
to speak,
of what is good and right;
you have become
as sounding brass,
a tinkling cymbal.

I have chosen to deafen my ears
to you,
as I open my eyes,
to the plight of those
who are my brothers,
who are my sisters,
whether young or old,
whether near or far;
of whom,
I am their keeper,
as are those,
who do have eyes,
that are willing to see,
what needs to be seen;
and do
what needs to,
and must be,
in the name
of all that is holy,
in the name
of all that is human.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Friday, July 11, 2014

the brave woman at the open mic I saw the other night...

She stands behind the mike,
looking a little battle-weary,
hysterically naked,
clothed in floral summer dress;
she's never done this before,
she tells us,
as we sit in rapt apprehension,
for what is to come,
from her voluptuous mouth.

But then she recites,
not from printed page,
but from memory,
as if she's been doing this
for awhile,
and her voice,
which, at the start,
seemed slightly timid,
bursts forth
in a full-on,
almost deeply musical blast,
regaling us
with verses,
make us laugh,
make us cry;
with our shared
and vulnerability
she has now
left us with,
in standing ovation
and appreciation,
as she,
now confidently,
thanks us,
and leaves the stage.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Friday, June 27, 2014

If These Walls...--A New Poem

I am standing in history,
where mere mortals
dared to dream;
stood their ground,
when that actually meant something
worth dying for;
images are all around me,
voices speaking their truths to me--
daring me,
pleading me,
not to forget,
not to ignore;
I can’t help
but acknowledge
that I am
they were,
they did,
they bled,
they died.
And I can’t help,
as I leave this room,
to promise them,
in my mind
in my heart,
to the best
of all that is within me,
that I will remember
this time,
their time
is now
my time
to be,
to do,
to live,
if need be,
for something
worth dying for.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

In A Place, Once Unfamiliar--A New Poem

I have recently placed my stakes
in a place to me,unfamiliar;
underneath cloud formations
so unreal,
yet more real
than anything imaginable;
sharing space
with fireflies
on summer nights
and storms gone
as quickly
as they’ve come;
there’s a past here,
both terrible and awesome,
equalled only by
the feeling of being home,
of being present,
that I now have
in this place,
once unfamiliar.
I hope to be able to
add to the tapestry
already woven
long ago;
add the first
of many new chapters,
of many new verses
in this place of music
and storytelling;
not so much
to find fame and fortune,
but to find purpose
and kinship
with those whose dreams
have led them here as well;
I hope to see love,
kindled before arrival here
from distant shores
where I once set root
and still have ties,
blossom into
a magnificent landscape,
matched only
by the artistry
of God’s making,
I see all around me
in this place, once
I hope that
what the future,
(which is now to me,
also unfamiliar)
is more real
than I could ever imagine;
more awesome
than I know how to handle;
more beautiful
than anything I’ve yet seen
in my dreams;
I hope.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Monday, June 16, 2014

Room 306--A New Poem

I am listening to Mahalia

singing your favorite song 
as I stare into 
the last room
you would ever inhabit;
tears streaming down
that were too young
that day
the earth seemed
to stand still
and time
seemed to freeze--
probably to those who were there,
to bear witness
as yet another native son
was taken before his time;
someone who,
in the words that would be spoken
soon thereafter,
of yet another,
"who saw wrong and tried to right it,
saw suffering and tried to heal it,
saw war and tried to stop it".

Were it not for hope,
which often wavers
in these still difficult days,
I would despair
that it does no good
to try to do good,
to try to be good
in this world
that would deem you
not fit to live
any longer--
history has shown
continues to show
that this is true;
but I take some comfort,
some solace,
as I stand 
outside a memorial
to your memory,
as one beneficiary
of the good
that you tried to do,
that it was worth it
and your death,
like so many before you,
and so many hence,
was not in vain.
Thank God Almighty.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

California Beamin'--An Ode

I want to write something
that encapsulates
what California has meant to me,
these twenty-two years now past;
I have learned much
and forgotten even more;
have found, and lost, love
many times over
to get to the love
I now have
and hope to keep;

like Bono,
I've climbed highest mountains
and kissed honey lips;
I've had my feet baptized
in her salty waters;

friends have come and gone---
because of time,
because of distance,
because of circumstances
beyond anyone's control;
but I've been blessed
by those who chose to,
or have been able to,

I've even been blessed
to be called father,
by one, not born of my blood--
the remarkably good,
out of what became
an unavoidably painful situation;
which is indicative,
of what California
has often been to me---

the joys
the pains;
the triumphs
the tragedies;
the sweet
the bitter,
which is also indicative
of what life
has often been to me.

it's probably safe to say
as much as Chicago,
where I was born and raised;
and Greenville,
where I was spiritually formed;
and everywhere in between,
has been life to me,
for the life to come
as I leave
her sunny,
bittersweet embrace.

Stay gold,

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

God’s Angry Man

In the dark night of my soul,

I pray for rain
to wash clean
my dirty streets,
knowing full well,
they will
become dirty
yet again;
I sin boldly
in the face
of a God
who has shown me
and I ask forgiveness,
only to squander it
like money
at a gambler’s table;
it is a good thing
that I am not
of such
I choose
to be prodigal,
and time
like a spoiled child
who is
never satisfied;
I cannot say
I know not
what I do,
for that
would be
a lie;
I want to be
I want
to be
my humanness,
this walking
of contradictions
God’s heaven,
upon God’s
If it is I,
present, and
so many
before me,
been chosen
to be His
so be it,
to Him
the glory.
what will happen,
will happen,
in accordance
to His will,
was meant
to be.


© 2014 Joseph Powell

Joseph Powell @Priscilla's Poetry Night

Monday, April 28, 2014

Here It Is, Your Moment of Zen... - A New Poem

staring at ducks in the middle of a pond,
in the middle of a park,
in the middle of a busy intersection,
in the middle of a very busy city,
while eating lunch,
made by a woman who loves you
more than words can say,
is the closest to a moment of peace
that you're ever going to get.

© 2014 Joseph Powell

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

To Be Middle-aged, Gifted, And Black--A New Poem

I am not one to brag or boast,
But I think it’s time to make a toast,
To a brother who,
likes to,
write the double truth,
I have come too far
seen too much
to stop now.
If nothing else,
my life
depends on it;
a gift,
that should not be squandered;
for those who’ve come before me,
and those who may
and will
follow after,
need to know,
that what they’ve done,
will do,
was not,
has not,
will not
be in vain.

My desire
to be a writer,
from a child’s dream,
a best friend’s dream;
and now,
that I’m about to begin
the midpoint of my life,
I want to see it
to the end.
Not for fame,
for vainglory;
but to,
hopefully be,
the fulfillment
of prayers prayed
and blood shed,
in my own
small way
through my own
to what has,
thus far,
been done,
and what continues to
guide me now
into the future.

© 2014 Joseph Powell