Urban Jungle Blues – A Duet

By Noel A. Ihebuzor and Susan L. Daniels

Another wandering day finds worn out minds
worrying on a wavering road wound tightly around anxious
feet lost and soles tired, tiring,
endless stomping, souls emptying, core eroding
trapped penniless in hard bone want
rides and crosses opulence heaving full breasted
never meeting anywhere or nowhere, desert islands, different
indifference, whether in narrow winding slums spawning hovels, grime, crime and anomie or in suffocating metallic structures that pierce the sky
seated on wide arteries on gridlocked checker boards
where automobiles choke the lungs with fumes of affluence,

Here, this city no longer smells of steel galvanizing
but oats baking into cereal O’s, and the main street
pedestrian mall frames four tracks for trains that do nothing
but run from the banks to the university
in a 30-year straight line, all the stores closed
except pharmacies, pawn shops, Chinese take-out,
stores that sell bright synthetic shoes for drag queens and prostitutes
or lottery tickets, cigarettes, and beer

The city sprawls, growls, as grim faces with automated smiles
and ATM voices greet and grit set teeth
co-travellers on the subway, rush without seeing, not feeling
and when seeing move on before sunshine thaws well frozen
protector shields of indifference and anonymity
to open a space now dreaded in this place where we pace
in a metal jungle of tubular bars, well rehearsed smiles,
a maze that breathes fear
behind stale glass windows or airless hovels
that color eyes and imprison minds
and minds stagnate in the stupor of sterile promises
that become hazier as mind become heavier, and stubborn dreams
slowly tip to cheap end points, needles, skins, threads and ropes

This is my downtown, my city of brown and black faces
strangled by surrounding white arms, where all the jobs grow
past the bus lines and reverse commutes from suburb to suburb;
but still in this heart blocked by abandoned factories
rises an energy.  Students fill the coffeehouses and jazz clubs,
wrapped in black, borrowed sophistication after a night
in the theatre district or gallery parties, and warehouses shift to lofts
and still more galleries, pop-up shows mushrooming between the cracks of sidewalks

like brilliant intoxicating fungi
as street festivals paint the air
with basil and cinnamon, mixing with those oats

urban centres call
sell hopes that reach for a sky
darkened by hard hearts

those sidewalks

littered landscaping
of trash cans never emptied
dreams full of promise

so emptying

***Susan and I explore the challenges of urban life in this duet. Though our backgrounds are different, our duet brings out some of the universal features of life  in an urban setting  – hence, the title, Urban Jungle Blues. As always, this was fun!  Susan’s voice is in italics, Mine is in regular type. Kindly let us know what you think of the duet!

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6 Responses to “Urban Jungle Blues – A Duet”


  1. 1 Susan L Daniels September 21, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    Noel, I think this was a wonderful flow/feel to it as we describe our two cities on opposing sides of the globe. As always, it was a pleasure to write with you!

  2. 3 Bruce Ruston September 21, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    oh you two do duet so well and they are very addictive to read and write ones own working with another is a special kind of privilege and delight I have found, loved reading it please feel free to do more

  3. 6 Rhonda September 25, 2012 at 12:54 pm

    duet heaven. i so enjoy eavesdropping on your conversations!


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