Monday, August 29, 2005

In the Jungle, the Mighty Jungle

(*I wrote this piece back in the early springtime)

"I got the Weary Blues
And I can't be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can't be satisfied--
I ain't happy no mo'
And I wish that I had died."

-Langston Hughes

The early morning wind whips mischievously round the glass and mortar towers of downtown. It has a mind of its own, finding stray newspapers, women's skirts and flimsy day-glo orange construction cones to dance with. Today, an old street beggar is standing at a corner. His too-loose baggy trousers become like a catamaran sail, filling with an unseen gust and propelling the gaunt black stick figure along the pavement. He seems too frail to withstand the rough and quick buffets, but with a determined stiffening of his back, he counters them and manages to keep himself erect. His slightly bulging eyes peer from beneath overpowering brows of grizzled and frosted hair. Deep brown creases in his face could have been carved from a sculptor's clay. A fur-lined hat, out of season for the warm spring morning, is pulled down tightly around his ears. A sad face, an angry face, when did he last smile? Ahead of him, a tee-shirted, khaki-clad man picks up his pace and jay-walks across the street to avoid any chance of contact with the sidewalk scarecrow. Looking furtively across his shoulder, arms swinging with determination, the worker jogs to put some distance between himself and the object of his unease. The old black man notices and shakes his head, his hat bobbing a bit with the movement. A gnarled hand reaches up and anchors it back down. His lips are moving with soundless words that are eaten by the breeze. The out-of-place inhabitant of the inner city seems like a fierce old lion, once the king of the pride but now powerless; beaten by life and weary. His mane is shaggy and matted, his gait unsure, and his bones made more prominent by the devilish wind pushing the threadworn cloth tight against his frame.

After work and driving west, the brilliant red and gold sunset could have been shining across an African savannah and I recalled this morning's odd encounter. Faint strains of music from a long ago song played in my head and I wondered, where will the lion sleep tonight?