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inspiration’s perspiration

Yes, you read correctly.  This is about perspiration.  But not just any perspiration.  No, no.  The stuff of inspiration.  More to my point, the sweat of inspiration.  I'm not talking about sweaty armpits.  I refer instead to the beaded brow of an artist slaving feverishly to convey the resplendent vision of an illuminated mind struck by . . . you guessed it . . . inspiration.

I am going to be uncharacteristically redundant, so please bear with me.

I tend to find inspiration in the oddest places:  looking at the wall; washing dishes; listening to static; hearing bumps in the night; taking my sense of humor seriously; tuning out reality; watching dust float; resting my eyes; twiddling my thumbs; thinking idle thoughts; staring into space at my desk or actually anywhere; ignoring a mysterious creak; playing with my Poe, Dickens and Shakespeare action figures; walking the dog (if I had one); pretending I'm meditating; remembering to breathe (I tend to forget); procrastinating; remembering to drink water (I tend to forget that too); failing to stay focused while watching a movie or show, or when someone is talking; perhaps focusing on the fact that I need to come up with an idea on one of the occasional occasions when I have not been hit by a deluge of them like falling stars.

It isn't Rocket Science.  It isn't an exact science, yet Science may creep into the vapor-spewing formula.

Neither is it brainstorming, barnstorming, even rain storming.  Although I find rain to be the very best of inspirations.

And then again, the creative trigger, that elusive lightbulb switch, could be the sound of a chainsaw.  A blade being sharpened.  The wind howling my name.  Crickets chirping.  A siren.  My ears ringing like a siren.  The drone of a fly in my ear.  Or a disturbing mental note.

My brain is a somewhat goopy glurpish bog in which there is much bubbling and churning going on, kind of like a volcano with indigestion that is never satisfied by the sacrificial offerings shoved into it.

Now that I have painted you a pretty picture, I will go on to say that an overactive imagination — like a volcano — can be inspired by just about anything.  Or nothing.  Nothing at all.  At least mine can.  It's funny that way.  I might feed it a steady diet of the macabre or unleash it to roam freely across eclectic pastures, down teeming lanes and boulevards, through stupendous natural splendors.  And then again I might just sit in a corner pondering my inner sanctumonious periphery, head spinning like a carousel of leaping monsters, wrapped in a cloak of introspection.  Sometimes it's best to contain the delirium, confine the madness, keep it safely locked inside.

I believe inspiration to be a sacred thing.  You cannot go back and erase or revise it if you have cause for regrets.  Random or otherwise, an inspiration can nag and distract you.  It can also vex and disappoint you . . . whether an author of fiction or nonfiction; a graphic artist, painter, sculptor, poet or songwriter.  Yet it is there, or it was at the precise magical moment of conceivery; thus it becomes a part of you in that sense.  It becomes a landmark along your path — the journey of an artistic soul.  (Or, with me, a demented one.)

Now and again I have created verse and prose from a single word or title that popped into my head.  I have also crafted poetry inspired by famous persons, a photograph, the painting "American Gothic".  I have composed pieces based on a specific poetic form, as well as in collaboration.  Most of the time I give birth to poems that come from within and loosely or distinctly fit a certain topic.  Likewise, I have written stories for anthologies and a novel for a contest incorporating a simple basic theme.

Inspiration can be a delicate balance.  We are always influenced, however subliminally, by experience and the world around us.  That is an integral part of the creative process.  But to tell the truth, when writing fictional prose I prefer to maintain an isolated rather insulated perspective and do my own thing.  Pull ideas out of my own hat.  I love reading yet am reluctant to read the work of others when I am working on a story or novel, particularly something of a similar genre.  It conflicts.  I can do something else — watch a movie, listen to music, play cards or a boardgame.

Reading inspires me.  It makes me want to write.  I usually don't need inspiration for that.  And there are so many ideas floating around these days, it can be overwhelming.  Daunting.  Authors at any level face more competition than ever before, and it is a staggering feat to stand out and be noticed.  I think the best way of doing this is by doing our own thing, not somebody else's.  That's what makes us special.

I strive for originality as much as possible.  Life may filter into what I write, but I prefer to maintain the integrity of my ideas and respect the ideas of others.  Not everyone will appreciate my efforts to be different, let alone the preoccupation with balance and flow, my unconventional language and obsessive need to avoid unnecessary redundancies.  Love or hate it, my voice is my voice; my style is uniquely mine, and I won't change it because somebody else thinks I should.  (It happens.)  And then there is the fear of being copied before even becoming known.

That said, creativity must embrace a wealth of ideas and passions to remain creative.  Just as the enraptured toils of talent are never misspent.  Labors of love endure, a permanent thing removed from any source.  The world of art is connected and held together by the invisible threads of those who inspire us.  We can all inspire each other, which is a beautiful thing.

I present three poems that were conjured after viewing an artist's paintings, in addition to a piece about meeting an actress, a spoof of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, and verse inspired by "inspiration" itself.  I hope you will enjoy these perspirations.

 

 

    MISCHIEF

Inspired by the Klarissa Kocsis painting A PUPPET AND HIS GIRL


Tufts of hair rode the crest of a make-believe wind

On an adventureless day after Mischief had grinned

And they spinned weaving caps of gentle cloud swirls

In a sweet giddy dance of I-can't-be-still curls . . .

The girl squirmed at the table unable, unable

To rein in her spirit like mares boxed by a stable

That yearned to chase coltish over hillocks and plains

Past fences and restrictions, a gush of streamed manes

Knee knobs and elbows angled, a tangled rush of free will

Yet she was parked on a wood chair, bored senseless until

The nimble figure gestured, hung upon a hook

The gamine-cheeked girl rose quietly and took

Him down from the peg then hugged the lively doll

Who did a happy jig, unbridled of the wall

Hair pale and sprouting waves like a turbulent sea

Much as the girl's mop spilled exuberantly

In a roundabout fashion as she jiggled her hips

The clown smiled with wild eyes and red painted lips

How they pranced hand in hand, a frolic of fun

While a circus unfolded neath a flower-rimmed sun

And the pointy-chinned puppet stood on his head

Wiggling toes with a giggle, then the sprite gaily said:

"Let's pretend we are twins, for we look just the same!

We shall play on the trapeze as our little game."

Climbing high, they perched side by side upon a wide bar

To hide from disapproval, swinging on a star

Laughing at the spectacle of acrobatic monkeymen

Stacked tall in swaying columns, then doing it again

But the clatter of tipped toys would lead to double trouble:

"I asked you just to sit there!  Your mind is in a bubble,

Running off on fantasies instead of doing what you're told."

The voice had grown impatient; its tone was raised to scold

Mischief sadly returned to dangle from a very rigid hook

And the girl would sit obedient with a slightly wistful look

A secret smile that knew the truth of magical daydreams

That everything you see isn't always what it seems.

 

 

    THE SULKER

Inspired by the Klarissa Kocsis painting SAD BOY

 

Waiting is torture to the very young

Who have all the time in the world to spare

Yet lack the patience that comes with age

And the peace of mind not to fret or care

For it is not their luxury to be in charge

Everything seems designed too big, too tall

It's a giant's world to the likes of a child

No room for the intricate details of the small

Those miniscule treasures, the innocent pleasures

Life loses intensity and may become a bit bland

The perfection of a moment absent weights and measures

As we stretch and develop from the time we first stand

Even fidgeting grows old with an eternity of practice

Sharp eyes have turned dull from a keen-edged gaze

The tantrums and sulks might only be a phase

Yet our freckled youth can get lost in the haze

 

A kid can turn moody, restless and unruly

Dragged here or there like an afterthought

Forced to bear witness to long conversations

And every single item of a list that Mummy bought

"Be good."  "Behave!"  "Be quiet.  "I'll just be a few minutes."

When a case of the Squirmies sets in, it's no use

A kid is a kid, there's no getting around it

So don't flip your lid when there seems no excuse

For Tommy's rambunctiously monstrous outburst

Or Sally's ungodly demonic possession

When they're forced to sit still and react at their worst

Do not scream and yell or demand a confession

Else soon you will join them in the silence of sulking

Faces frozen to fierce and permanent scowls

Raptly staring with the tempers of angry screech owls

Given on a full moon to shuddersome howls!

 

 

    UNMASKED

Inspired by the Klarissa Kocsis painting MASKS

 

There is much artifice in the masks we don

Like crimson marks to pretend bugs are deadly

Humans strap on an expression they don't really feel

And disguise genuine sentiments rather infraredly

For we never know what another is thinking

Even upon the brightest of days

They could conceal opinions out of politeness

Or deceive us in so many ways

There are those who use flattery, a friendly smile

To gain our trust or win affection

Like a dance of posers holding faces on sticks

Polishing their acts to sterling perfection

For you can meet anyone at a masquerade ball

The jealous, the envious, the bitter and spiteful

The ambitious or greedy, the backstabbing or creepy

And then again, perhaps someone delightful

Do not be afraid to get swept away

But take care that your partner won't step on your toes

And brace yourself when the mask comes off —

There may be an even bigger nose!

Women paint veneers to enhance their beauty

Like brushstrokes on canvas, a creative invention

Whereas clowns put on a more comical visage

To make people laugh, quite another intention

Wouldn't it be interesting if the facades people wore

Should reflect their moods, what lurked inside?

For many years I disdained using make-up

Being a straightforward person with nothing to hide

I now adorn my face like putting on a hat

It's a matter of image, though I am still not afraid

To be seen as I am without the embellishment

Despite the changes that Time has made

And yet I wonder about the aspects we apply

These public versions of a more truthful claim

What if the masks one day matched our features . . .

Whose faces would still look the same?

 

 

    The Whatzit

 

A Whatzit once wandered into a museum

And nobody knew what it was

It wasn't even sure of the answer itself

There were stripes, lumps and mumps growing fuzz

It had ruffles and ridges and smidges and spires

Crumples and rumples and wrinkles and whatknots

The thing wasn't a thing yet it wasn't a nothing

What it was was a mystery covered with spots

The poor dearie appeared to belong to no species

And could not be classified, pigeonholed or labeled

Know-It-Alls scratched their heads in perplexity

And deemed further argument tabled

So they stowed it on a shelf in a dusty backroom

Confined to storage, mothballed and tagged

A big red question mark on the middle of its forehead

According to the experts the matter was bagged . . .

 

Whatzie languished obscure behind the scenes

Until a lowly curator needed some fluff

A little this and that, a bit of something or other

To fill an exhibit that did not have enough

Stray objects and nicknacks were dumped in a box

The Whatzit included among these doodads

Then arranged in the background of a large display

For Mesozoic swamplings, naiads, dryads and zoonads

Nobody noticed the out-of-place window dressings

And a peculiar sweet nothing finally made some friends

In the midst of a random miscellaneous assortment

The Whatzit felt at home with the odds and ends

There's a moral in this story to never give up

When you've lost your element, taken a wrong turn

And find yourself in the middle of nowhere

Just head for a museum and pretend you're a fern.

 

 

    The Moon's Smile

On meeting actress-singer-dancer BarBara Luna

 

The face is familiar due to a lifetime of views

On so many eventides and moons ago

Contours carved by the gods with care

Still luminous in Twilight's glow

Mirroring the sun, rising like a balloon

The night sky her stage and screens

A black velvet curtain that drips with diamonds

The big valley of kings and queens

Her course has voyaged a trek of stars

Avidly charted by Lunatics

On a ship of fools across the heavens

Through a creek of fire to the outer limits

Where angels dance and spin new sparkles

That inspire the cosmos to create

Her visage is an icon transcending the dark

Enigmatic features, moods that alternate

Winking, turned away, an exotic enchantress

She is not as untouchable as many stars

Who consider gazers almost invaders

And float on a fantasy isle with invisible bars

Over the South Pacific, perhaps Hawaii

Trapped like a jungle cat pacing at the zoo

No, meeting her is not a mission impossible

For she comes down to earth like me or you

The Moon hides behind no mask like Zorro

She has swung with Tarzan from astral vines

And danced on the West Side with the Devil

While kicking her heels up in chorus lines

It is a myth she only comes out at night

And wears a lofty masculine face

In the daylight I met the August Moon

A goddess personified in humility and grace

Up close it is clear they had it all wrong

For the Moon isn't made of ice or cheese

Luna's heart seems as radiant as her smile

And moonbeams are among her legacies

Rain or shine, the Sun aims its spotlight on her

Along with the cow, the dish and the spoon

To a lady with the brightest, the widest of grins

Who beat the odds and was cast as the Moon.

 

 

    Frankenschnickle

 

On a twilight bleak and rather bleary

In a burg between neither here nor there

Was born to the world a hideous oaf

For whom none could give a single care

His mother ran screaming from the awful sight

Three lads named Frank propped against her door

The boys cobbled his body from a pile of spare parts

They had found on the undertaker's floor

Next they wired him to a tractor's motor

That they hooked up to a windmill's volts

Being generated by a northern gale

The weather threw in a few lightning bolts

The woman returned to coax an ogre inside

Where he broke the furniture then gulped her food

A solitary soul, she invited him to stay

And treated him like her very own brood

The six children she kidnapped had long run off

Many years before the monster's construction

Perhaps because she was fattening them

To feed to an appetite for destruction

She loved to maim and tear things down

To burn and slay what she could not stand

Which was anything nice like flowers and kittens

Little girls especially were in great demand —

"They're too pretty and pink!" the mad spinster railed.

"I want you to crush them!" she bade Frankenschnickle.

But even a monster has limits to horridness

And this one balked, resulting in a pickle

If his heart was soft, she would have to replace it

No son of hers could possess a kind streak

So she plotted to snatch the heart of a scoundrel

The worst varmint a life of violence could wreak

In her favor, the prison became a bloodbath

When a riot erupted in the midst of its brutes

There were corpses galore of killers and maniacs

The witch sputtered with glee as if in cahoots

Instead, by mistake she stole a lamb's ticker

A docile critter with no menace or harm

That was intended for the mortician's plate

Purchased that morning from a local farm

"Now, my Schnicklefritz," the madwoman crooned,

"You are a devilish imp and we'll have us some fun.

My dear scalawag, you will do as I say . . .

Go and step on the girls!  Do not miss a one!"

The crude Frankenschnickle, who had other designs,

Wasn't evil to the core but a humble sheep

So he kissed the girls and made them cry

Afraid of his scars, a patchwork creep

This made him sad and he lumbered home

To tell his mean mother the tragic tale

She cursed and clubbed him for being meek

Then blamed herself in a high-pitched wail:

"I didn't beat you enough, my Schnicklefritz!

You've had it too easy!" the woman vowed.

"From now on I shall chain and whip you daily!

No more Mister Nice Guy will be allowed!"

The creature let loose a resonating "Baaahhh!"

That expressed a depth of lamentous yen

Wrapping the witch in her own iron links

He departed to never be seen again.

 

 

    yeegads

 

Oh, the scads of termite notions that nibble my thoughts —

I am besieged and bewildered by the wretched wroughts.

In a hand-wringing flimsy and mimsy of cold spots,

The flesh tends to waver; the stomach twists to knots.

 

And what, you may ask, has inspired these qualms?

I would tell you could I read the sweatstains of my palms,

If hearts could revive aft the mortician embalms,

Or if storms would be followed instead by their calms.

 

Yet with perilous dread I should tiptoe away

Lest this terror increase to the height of dismay

And my lips turn to frozen, my skin ashen gray,

Brittle feet shedding bits of each step toward decay . . .

 

While shiverous syllables splinter off an ice tongue

To strike the ground tinkling as if chimes have been rung,

Or a line of dead pigeons toppling frigid, unsung,

Claws rigidly curled from the wire they had clung.

 

My muscles gone wooden, knees softer than soup,

All backbone has fled — a bandit humped in a stoop,

Pulse skipping, head tripping, as audacities droop;

I must find a safe corner in which to recoup

 

From the nameless terrors that can torture a mind

Huddled with oneself in the dark as though blind,

Nerves jangling, tension dangling, the shadows unkind,

While descended to a primal state once far far behind.

 

A compulsion it is, there's no doubt about that!

There are fans of most anything whose hearts pitter-pat.

Sure, it might not seem healthy to be scared as a cat,

To go pale as a sheet and flutter like a bat . . .

 

A meltdown of stamina, my composure's demise,

Apparent from the starkness betrayed in the eyes;

A pureness of panic, the shriek of surprise

That accompanies the reveal of a sinister guise.

 

Why oh why do I do this?  I know better by now

Than when I was younger, too small to allow

A child to stay up watching the Late Shows but wow,

I read chillers by flashlight past bedtime anyhow —

 

And the mellow exhaustion that was left in its wake

Was well worth the shock of an adrenaline stake

Plunged through my heart for Horror's sake.

Yeegads, I won't sleep a blink until it's daybreak!

 

 

    inspiration's perspiration

 

A fog-laden midnight in a frightyard of bones

Like a horn's deep bellow beyond a broken shore

The face of a weeping window on a precipitous day

The rainy batter of teardrops can make a heart soar

Glimpsing the world draped in black and white

Like a widow in a veil hunched before a bleak stone

Or uncovering a sculpture only halfway carved

A canvas abandoned on an easel alone

I know well the frustration of work pushed aside

Inspiration comes and goes, a tentative dance that I do

In a scrabble for genius amid the fleet swirl of demons

The muse of a shadow partner waltzing askew

It can flicker and fade like a taper's dim glim

Tangos with the dark in ballrooms of lost hopes

Each day spent climbing from the last one's wreckage

Minutes bleed through fingers that clutch at last ropes

With deathgrips and seizures, the nails fissured and frayed

Like straws toted by camels collapsed in the road

Tongues licking the dust as if for a drink

Too weary to bear such a burdenous load . . .

 

I have known the derides of spiritless tides

When inspiration recedes like a sea with no heart

That toys and trickles and skips just beyond

In cruel taunts and jigs, it can dangle then dart

Flinging droplets and froth, the foam of a thought

As I've stumbled in its wake on an oceanless shore

Abiding, dependent, at its mercy and whim

Anticipating and waiting for a little bit more

Unprepared for the suddenness a mood can change

And spill on my head in a thunderous gush

Of too many ideas for two hands to record

Drowned by inspiration's mercurial rush

The crash of an epiphany cascading all at once

After hanging above like a curled arm and fist

The hand waggling digits in an ominous manner

Ere delivering the brunt of enlightened gist

I may dash with a squeal, wade barefoot through sand

In a slow-motion flight of giggly jubilation . . .

Or breathe a whiff of the salt draft that teases my brow

Pearled as if by divine perspiration.

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Lori R. Lopez

Rafael Lopez

Noel Lopez