Tag Archives: soul-searching

FROM MUSCLE SHOALS TO BAKERSFIELD

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FROM MUSCLE SHOALS TO BAKERSFIELD

 

From Muscle Shoals to Bakersfield familiar vagabond spirits I meet

torch of knowing burning through opened eyes

we know what’s it’s like to live on the other side

to exist on the outside looking in

we know why others find comfort dwelling inside another’s’ dream

and why we choose a life

chasing freedom

 

From Tacoma to Portland, Maine

I recognize their kind

essence of life dripping like sweat from the tip of our nose

committing sins as if sins are our daily bread

forgive us father for we have erred time and time again

attaining knowledge from our trials

forgive us father if we have grown so much wiser

than the fearful kind who have faced no trials at all

forgive us father for we have sinned

time and time again

learned from our mistakes and moved on

aware that experience may darken the soul

light dimming with the passing of years

but if we allow wisdom to blossom from failures

there’s a special kind of light that burns

when we conquer our fears

 

From the harsh winters of Fargo to the tropics of Brownsville

we move on down this road with a song in our hearts escaping

these weary travelers disconnected

from mechanisms of society intended to control us

disconnected from those desiring to lord over us

to own us

we cut the puppet strings and paved our own road out of here

this song in our hearts escaping

our severed hearts finding a chorus to hold on to

these vagabond souls singing all the time rejoicing in

Whitman’s Song of the Open Road

In The End

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In the end

if my hands and heart are scarred

then know I’ve fared well

for each scar is a memory, a medal of honor

for challenges defeated, battles won

and lessons learned

 

In the end

I will not be pure

pure like mountain streams born of snowmelt

for purity is a lack of experience

and I am the stream when it makes the delta

a thousand miles from home

depositing my silt into the ocean of the universe

Leaving

wild turkeys in fog

A city boy by birth, I eventually broke free of the high intensity hectic urban lifestyle and made my escape to the country. 15 years I spent peacefully dwelling on a small spot of land where the forest dissolves into rolling prairie. Out here, surrounded by an abundance of undeveloped acreage, cattle quietly grazed in green pastures along with coyotes, rabbits, armadillos, owls, hawks, wild turkeys, bobcats, and of course, snakes. At nights we sat on the porch and watched the moon rise from the east, 1113brighter and more vivid than ever before. My wife often commented that she could see the bands of the Milky Way floating above our heads in the night sky. We slowed down. As the white noise of the city faded we began to hear something new, our thoughts, our inner voices, inspiring us to discover our souls.

During this time we also built a small business that took us down the highways and back roads of America. 10 years we did this and the experience changed our core selves, for the better (I like to believe). Some people think we were insane for abandoning traditional career paths in exchange for the romance of a gypsy lifestyle on the road, but those people are wrong. Drowned out by the white noise of the city, they’ve never heard their inner thoughts softly speaking to them, encouraging them to take risks and seek new adventure. They’ve never been liberated from the all-mighty, soul consuming corporate machine. Most of these naysayers had never experienced that kind of freedom. Severing the corporate umbilical cord is a gambit most people are too afraid to take. After all, it’s only your life and future well-being that’s at stake.

After 15 years nurturing my soul, the journey abruptly came to an end. I returned to the mainstream, to corporate America as another cog in the machine. After 15 years of rural splendor, I moved back to the city.  Then I penned some verses about leaving a life behind, mostly for therapy I suppose, and made these verses the prologue for my recent collection of poetic attempts, Urban Hymns. 

 

Leaving

 

Said goodbye to the road

open highways and miles and miles of empty space

bid farewell to my country home

isolation and peaceful contemplations

buried my business and my way of life

buried the man I used to be

buried it all six feet in the ground

left behind everything I knew to be right

sun moon and stars

fresh air and Natures’ masterpiece

left it all behind in my rearview mirror

hit the road and headed north

made my way to the city

where men have little pity for the honorable kind

inserted myself into the mainstream

reunited with my brother and sister

reunited

with the children of the hive

Stagnation

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Old man donated

forty years of loyal service to the corporate logo

forty years behind a desk, filling out forms

endless meetings, a yes man for self-preservation

never rocked the boat

never found fault in the corporate agenda

never learned how to live

liked to brag about the level of stagnation he achieved

After forty years of servitude they came and declared

it’s time to retire, thanks for the years

here’s a small plaque and a pin for your lapel

notice the corporate logo?

thanks much, it’s time for you to go

time to train someone new for your post

Four days later those who worked beside him all those years

we’re far too busy for memories of people who used to be

because the machine keeps rolling

world never pauses to reflect upon those left behind

in the stream of Time

Four weeks after retirement

they forgot his face and all the things he had done

all those things being mundane

achievements not worthy of lasting fame

after four months most couldn’t remember his name

couldn’t remember him at all

as if he never existed

never sacrificed his soul

his one and only life in the physical world

sacrificed for the corporate goal

and the disease of stagnation leaves a man one dimensional

drops him off at a station in Time

never to progress

baggage of unfulfilled dreams at his feet

Sunshine

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She works nights down at the factory

sacrificing the sun

keeps to herself, burned so many times

silently performs her tasks and when the shift is done

walks away down darkened streets so cold

fully aware

there’s no sunshine for a working class girl

She rents an apartment on the industrial side of town

where tenements and smokestacks congregate

rising high into the sky

this city of the hive blocking out the light

black ash raining down

while she sleeps all day long

sleeping

through the time of the sun

Once a year she celebrates

in front of a window cross legged

patiently waiting

for the sun in its ritual trek across the sky

slips between two buildings

once every 365 days

brilliant sunlight flooding the street

penetrating frozen windows bathing her apartment

in natural light

closes her eyes as luminescence washes over her

dreams filling the soul

for the sun in its eternal quest

will pierce the darkest corners of the world

We Broke Down

abandoned truck

On a highway outside Albuquerque

we broke down

our vehicle dead on the shoulder of the road

we broke down

as the first snowflakes of winter began to fall

we broke down

after many years spent racing into storms chasing dreams

we broke down

attempting to forge a life greater than our means

we broke down

so many troubles we had seen only to discover this road leads nowhere

we broke down

in that place where the soul separates from tissue and bone and moves on

we broke down

where a wounded heart detaches from the body because there’s no other choice

we broke down

like the relentless desert wind eroding stone into sand

we became sand

insignificant particles of dust carried on the wind

we parted ways

Soul

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Tears flow

blood flows

feel the pain

the human stain

standing in the rain

wash away the sin

cleanse my skin

fill in the holes

baptize this soul

in experience

emotional transference

physical stimuli

till the day I die

If I couldn’t feel

none of this would be real

emotions tattoo the moment

memories of happiness and torment

if I didn’t have a soul

I couldn’t feel anything

feel anything at all

if it wasn’t for this battered soul

I wouldn’t have known you

known you at all

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Those who danced were thought insane by those who could not hear the music

Friedrich Nietzsche

 

1.

August, 2011.

 

I’ve fallen off the grid.

 

Forgotten highways and dirt road backstreets are my lifelines. Cow pastures, turkey barns, and asphalt parking lots in old, abandoned towns are my homes. Removed from the white noise of the city Earth’s heartbeat pulsates through the skin, recalibrating an emerging soul. Silently I dance a dance of chaos to the rhythm of a dying sun.

 

From the doorway of a converted school bus parked behind a turkey barn I sit on a step and watch as the sun sinks into the earth. An explosion of colors race across a deepening blue sky, reflected back into the universe from my eyes. Scent of rain hangs heavy in the air as storm clouds retreat in the distance.

 

Engulfed in emptiness I’m all that remains of a congregation that once gathered here for a weekend each month. Voices of ghosts echo inside the head. Closing eyes, a thousand faces stare back but the connection is gone. Energy has ebbed. Love has evaporated. Path fades in a diminishing light.

 

This is my church, my religion, my spiritual awakening. In the distance trees congregate to meditate. Flowers bow heads in prayer. Silhouetted against the horizon, mesas rise up to witness the ceremony. Stars emerge in the east, twinkling brightly with anticipation. Wind carries a sermon and I lean forward to listen. Eyes close and a restless spirit is soothed by the words. Weightlessness consumes the body. Mind is set free to roam the countryside, soaring across land and water, across space and time to a place where the lines of reality are blurred, a place where boundaries and labels can’t exist, into another dimension where limitations are not known. I am but an illusion in the physical world, just another soul trapped inside a host.

 

Everything is a symbol.

 

I am a child of the Earth, born of the elements, grounded in the soil. My soul was born from a seed planted inside this host and took root in the consciousness of the universe. I am the darkness and the light, the rising and setting of the sun and everything in between. My soul has merged with the force that sparks life into everything. I feel all it feels as it fills all of me.

 

Opening eyes, sun is a tiny red orb sinking over the horizon. Lightning from a distant storm illuminates the sky and I pretend it’s a thought passing through God’s mind. Scent of rain remains but storms have passed without releasing a drop. Fields have dried up. Vegetation is scarce. Ground is hard, deeply scarred by cracks. Ponds, creeks, and rivers run dry. The path abruptly disappears into the charred remains of the land. There is nowhere further to go. This is the end and I am but a symbol of something yet to be understood.

 

Everything is a symbol.

 

My name is Jason Powell and I was shoved off the grid.

Maria

This poem is vastly different from anything I’ve penned in the past and I struggled with it for weeks before deciding to post. Might regret this later . . .

 

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Maria dressed in sandals and short plaid skirt

braless in a spaghetti strap top

another man’s face tattooed across her heart

and names of those she’s destroyed scribbled down her arms

broken angel wings she attempts to hide

this is Maria, intending to alarm

 

Cursed by visions of setting suns

she cradles a flaming torch in arson hands

living her days on the run

as vast fields burn in distant lands

in Albuquerque she makes a stand

desperate revelations shared in a back alley dive

barrel of a .45 pressed against dead men’s minds

 

In western New Mexico she hits a bank

and I achieve awareness with a water pistol in my hands

banker face down on marble floor

Maria straddles over him praying for God’s lost souls

surveillance camera on the wall she stares and proclaims

I am the dream inside your illusion screaming to be set free!

 

Back road into desolation we flee

and Maria’s visions return frequently

across sand flats peppered with dirt floor ramshackle shacks

yellow colored yards home to rusting abandoned burned out cars

in deepest stretches of emptiness where exiles hide

embracing visions of massive totem poles piercing the sky

encrypted symbols she reads and solemnly decides

this is humanity on the rise

 

In an east LA motel the King’s Men make their move

capturing Maria sleeping nude

locked behind bars downtown praying

for broken-spirited men so many years waiting

on an eidolon to set them free

 

Tried by a jury not of her peers

she’s convicted in the land of non believers

visions are condemned to death

by those who cannot understand the source of her breath

tongue is a weapon like a scythe

removed by the deaf who fear the swath of words so vile

 

But prison bars couldn’t contain her soul

so each day when the dying sun sinks into the grave

Maria quietly makes her escape

moving stealthy across the land on a hyperbolic wind

whispering sermons in ears she easily bends

reminding there exists no reason for fear

Maria’s whispers I plainly hear

life is an illusion and none of us are really here

Hippie Child pt1

I accidently penned this next poem while attempting to say something completely different under the same title. Somewhere between the inspiration for the original version and my fingers hitting the keys on the keyboard this new version exploded into my head and onto the computer screen. Not certain how it got there or where it came from but here it is anyway.

I should also point out that I have nothing against hippies. I’ve been accused on more than one occasion of being a hippie myself. This poem is about my lack of political party affiliation. I always vote, but I’m tired of having to choose between the lesser of two evils. Our elected public servants should be so much more than that.

 

HIPPIE CHILD

 

Refuse to dance with the left

refuse to dance with the right

I won’t hug a tree or get down on my knees

and succumb to your ideology

try as you might I’ll never fight your fight

got a mind of my own and maybe it’s slightly blown

but I’m going to think for myself

so put your philosophies on a shelf

go program someone else

 

Corporate political religious cults

everywhere I look

thinking you speak for me is such an insult

empty promises bait the hook

homicide and suicide on the rise

your words are human pesticide leading to our demise

I look at you and you at me and what do you think you see?

another hippie child needing to be set free

 

Dance with the left, dance with the right

but I’ll never dance with you because of all those things you do

souls bought and sold by shadowy figures behind closed doors

in backroom deals where good intentions fall to the floor

 

In homes across America children need a meal

banks foreclose on families because Dad lost his job at the factory

so shareholders could earn another penny on the dollar

in the streets grown men wonder why they bother

 

You can look at me and I don’t care what you think you see

because your hippie child I’ll never be

peace, love, and fuck you

your hippie child I’ll never be