By Jen Pastiloff.
I am not disciplined and I am a little lazy. I seek out inspiration when I can. I use anything I can. Or else I can’t write. Or else I can’t live. I don’t do the “just write everyday” advice very well.
Example: I am in this diner and there’s this man I watch a lot. Cheeks collapsed into his head and hollow as a balloon with all the air sucked out. The skin wrinkled and I’d love to touch it I think. I’ve never felt a face like that before. He is my favorite old man to steal images from. Cleans his fork with spit.
My Own Personal Muse sucks on his poppy seed bagel. Scrapes out the dough, sucks on it to get it soft before he swishes it around in his mouth. Once a paste, he will swallow.
He’s very consistent in his habits. I count on him like a clock when I feel like nothing is making sense in the world and that the irregular and erratic are gaining speed.
He grunts in broken English Too much cantaloupe! at the man mixing fruit behind the counter, Too much cantaloupe! Then, the part I will steal, since I am here shopping for images, the true gem is this: It is not a balanced fruit salad because there is too much of one thing.
I choke on my breakfast I am so defeated by the truth in this.
Most mornings I wait for him to do something fascinating. To inspire me to write a poem about him. Eight whole minutes and he’s still shining a fork. He finishes his bread. Amazingly, without help from teeth. After the bagel, he eats French fries with ketchup and mayonnaise. He doesn’t even use his fork after all.
He leaves and takes the fork.
There’s this other guy. Another old man shuffling in, with big teeth and gums and skinny legs. And he walks right over to my table. Like he’s been looking for me for days, or for years. He leans over eggs and into me as if to deliver some big news. Smart women he says cook with gas in balanced power homes. Then he walks away. And by the pies with a look says: Well, what do you make of that?
I’ve never lived in a balanced power home. Am I smart? Can I cook? Can I cook with gas? Have I ever even been in a balanced power home?
I feel overwhelmed by this confession. And more fittingly, undone.
At home the power was never balanced. My father whistled in the morning for my mother to bring him his coffee with half and half. Nights he rang a bell for his Pepsi, his waffles with chocolate ice cream.
All these men: opera singers with objects stuck in their throats.
Useless, until the dislodging.
Until that Monday before he died, my father never even knew where we kept the glasses in the kitchen.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Me, I am a thief. (See? I even used the old men and the cantaloupe and the balanced power thing and the bagel.)
I will search in diners and in my past and through old men with puffy faces. I don’t care, I am not above this “borrowing”, as it were. Isn’t that how we make a life, after all? Isn’t it how we make our way in the world? We find what images grab us. We find what resonates and then we run for the hills with our discovery.
We change what need to.
If we pay attention the inspiration is right there, in every cup of coffee, in every face, in every lie, in every declaration by the pies. There is no such thing as a balance of power.
Take what you can and get out fast. Use what you need to. Be inspired by all of it. Even the rotten and the crotchety.
Look, you can use them. Use your past. Use what you can and run for the hills waving your flag that says I am an artist or I am a writer or simply I am a person in the world.
I am alive.