Around 9 o’clock on our first night in the city, a friend and myself drove down to 17th Avenue or thereabouts in search of sushi. We found said sushi in a night-clubesque establishment with light-up Van Gough vodka bottles mounted into the walls and extremely repetitive techno music playing so loudly that even face to face we had to rely on lip reading. The bass from the songs shook our soy sauce dishes so much they seemed to be going into seizures every other BOOM BOOM beat.
We were going to check out the rooftop of the restaurant, but in dire need for auditory respite we opted to walk around the streets instead. At around 11 o’clock we stumbled upon a park with giant trees and a huge sculpture of a human figure at the entrance. To our surprise dozens of people were mulling about: couples not so subtly necking on benches set back from the main walkway, homeless people sleeping under scrap mounds of blankets, a group of teenagers with rainbow hair attempting dangerous feats on trick bikes, and people just enjoying the night air in the company of a listening companion. For the first time since we arrived in Philadelphia, I wished I had my poetry notebook with me. The black and white marbled composition book I have favored since high school usually lasts for one year of writing. All my gleaned quotes, good phrases, or quick images go into the book along with new poems and old revisions. And I didn’t think to bring it with me. Nor did I bring the book with me when we visited the Constitution Center and we felt patriotic fire in our veins. Nor did I remember to pack it today for our afternoon downtown excursions and possible adventures.
The moral of the story is that inspiration is a sneaky but suctioning beast. She strikes without warning and leaves you holding a void if you have no materials to put that inspiration to paper (or canvas, or dance floor, etc). I have learned a new lesson here that writing is not an activity tailored to a time slot with all materials present in a noiseless room. I can’t tell you how many times I have felt a line slide in my head and right back out because I was unprepared to receive the words. I should show y’all my collection of restaurant napkins with snippets hurriedly written down in the middle of a meal. I carry at least 20 pens on me at all times in case half don’t work. But I’m still bad at being prepared to receive the vision the world is trying to get me to see.
Be an eager receptacle for words. You’ll flesh out the good and flush out the bad soon enough. At least be prepared enough when the inspiration strikes with pens, open ears, and a shut mouth. And don’t forget your notebook.