The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Love Comes, Nothing Can Be Done July 31, 2009

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 7:49 am

The prompt for this one is a bit complicated. Have everyone free write—for one minute—any words, phrases, or complete sentences in response to the following five noun phrases:

1. an accident

2. a delicious meal

3. an annoying person

4. great sex (or someone or something sexy)

5. a dog or a cat—a pet, or someone else’s pet, even one you didn’t like very much

After everyone has written these descriptive free writes, place the words “Love is” in front of every one. Suddenly you have a metaphor. Read three of these out loud, allowing some time between each reading, and encouraging everyone to write down images, words or phrases that stand out from each person’s piece. Read around three times. Then write for 20 minutes, whatever comes to mind. Here’s what I wrote:


Love came back to visit — a zombie dog with a long, loping face and a loud bark — and he said, “You haven’t forgotten me, have you, old friend?”

I looked up from the keyboard, the notepad, the stir-fry, a wooden spoon in my hand. I was writing a novel before you came to bother me, Love; I was cooking good food and exercising again, squeezing into my skinny jeans, feeling skinny, feeling sexy again in the jeans that used to drive my ex crazy.

I wanted to say, I don’t need you right now, Love; I’m working on my relationship with me, Love, everyday love, every day love, but instead I smiled at that kissable, pathetic face and said, “I haven’t forgotten.”

I’ve been busy, I wanted to say, living without you, really living this time, jogging on Church Street with Madonna and Christina and Rihanna, before you beat on her beautiful face, Love. I’ve been eating one cookie, and drinking one martini, not smoking so much pot, getting to bed early and sober and sleeping deeply, dreamlessly, without nightmares, waking before the alarm. But instead I asked, “Are you hungry?”

Love is always hungry.

“Okay,” I said. “Sit down.”

I know what Love thinks: that this is a happy accident, that our time together is unintentional. And I know what Love smells: blackened watermelon, or sweet flowers in the hair of creamy Polynesian men and women. I know what Love wants to taste: sweat in the crevices of the body: the crook of the elbow, the shallow pool of the clavicle, the belly button, and that place where the thigh meets the pelvis.

I wanted to say, I don’t want you anymore, Love; I don’t dream of same sex weddings or a real family, or flowers about to burst open.

Still. There he was, sitting like a good dog. One hundred and sixty plus pounds of solid muscle and soft hair. What else was there to do but feed him? Wildflower salad from my own garden, fresh sage butter on a poached egg, ciabatta and olive oil, three kinds of bread pudding, and a glass of perfectly paired Port with hints of honey undertones.

Love, I think you’re so good at torturing others, but it’s important to rescue you.

“A toast,” I said.

We lifted our glasses.

“A toast, Love,” I said.

“To us.”


Traveling Solo July 20, 2009

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 8:06 am

The prompt this time was flowers. I passed a selection of flowers around the room and asked everyone to take a minute with each one, to really see each one, then to pass it to the person on his or her right. The flowers I choose may vary, but the usual are: a Japanese cherry blossom branch, a Cecile Brunner rose, a magnolia blossom, a daisy, a calla lily, jasmine, lilac, a daffodil.

Writing in response to flowers brings up all kinds of interesting themes: death, birth, sex, love.  My piece is below, preceded by a Georgia O’Keeffe quote I read out loud as all the writers sit with their first flower.

“Nobody sees a flower –really — it is so small it takes time –we haven’t time — and to see takes time, like having a friend takes time.”


Spring in California

Magnolias the size of dinner plates, salad plates, dessert bowls, fragrant cream and lilac. Jasmine popping out on a vine along the back fence. Tulip bulbs reaching their leaves up toward the sun. Cherry blossoms like a cloud of pale pink lace.

“Who are you going to Vancouver with?” my sister asks.

“I’m going alone.”



“You should have told me. I could have gone with you.”

In Vancouver, it’s been raining. March is not the prime time to visit. The ten-day forecast flashes up on my computer screen: Rain. Clouds. 50 degrees during the day, 37 degree at night. My heart sinks.

All of the images I’ve seen of Vancouver show blue skies with mountains in the distance. Warm, sunny beaches, and towers rising into clean air at the blue water’s edge.

I make a list:
Pack gloves and hat
Waterproof boots
Buy a travel umbrella

“If I wasn’t in rehearsal for this play,” my sister continues, “I’d come with you.” She is walking her Golden Retriever, talking on her cell phone. I imagine her rounding a corner filled with purple crocuses, a spray of yellow daffodils with orange mouths against a white house behind her.

“Well,” I say, not wanting her to come, but suddenly feeling lonely, “it’s the new me: comfortable in my solitude,” and I sound like my older brother, the one we forget about sometimes, and then remember sadly.

The lilac tree in the neighbor’s yard is blooming too early this year. A cone of lavender and purple juts out above the stark grey branches. It’s a very old tree. It’s dying, I think, the cell phone getting hot against my ear.

I absent-mindedly press the fingertips of my free hand into the soil of the tiny orange pot sitting on my kitchen window ledge. I bought the pot at an art fair three weeks ago; there are bright yellow sunbursts painted on its sides. The basil seeds I planted in it aren’t sprouting. And outside, the grey sky threatens to rain.

“So? Are you dating anyone?” she asks.

I cannot tell you how much I dread that question.

“No,” I say, wishing just once that I had a different answer.

I imagine myself sloshing through the cold rain in the streets of Vancouver.

And I’m wondering if the forty gladiolus bulbs I planted last month are going to rise up and out of the earth like beautiful aliens.


Profanities July 15, 2009

Filed under: Poems,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 12:09 am

This writing prompt asks you to begin with a five minute free write list: come up with as many swear words as you can. The words people come up with are a blast to listen to, especially the compound swear words! If you do this in a group, ask everyone to choose four of them, and then read around your choices, one a time, going around to everyone four times. I had a lot of combos that involved the word fuck. The poem below is the result. (Also see Kim Addonizio’s poem “Fuck” from her collection, what is this thing called love–WW Norton, 2004).


Fuck Spring

no, really
Fuck Spring.
Fuck Easter with its little newborn chicks
and pastel bunnies
and baskets of foil wrapped chocolates
and multi-colored jellybeans
that all taste the same

And fuck all of the blossoming trees:
pink, pale plum against purple black branches,
and white apple blossoms,
Japanese cherry puffs
wet, white magnolia
and the Hawthorne trees
blossoming so sweet
on a warm evening
you could drink it.

Fuck the birds
singing and mating
and building intricate nests
and bees
drunk on nectar
orange pollen covering
their black legs
and butterflies mating in mid-air?
Fuck all of you!

Stop filling lush, grassy fields with
yellow mustard flower
stop bursting forth from bulbs:
tulips, lilies, freesia
Fuck off lilacs!

Stop reminding me about
the relentless, unstoppable, supernatural
cycle of death and rebirth
stop trying to pull me
out of this sadness
stop making me think
about falling in love again.


I’m not always this serious July 13, 2009

Filed under: Poems,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 10:30 pm

The prompt this time was the definition of the word “hope,” from the Oxford Dictionary. One source of the word is old German, and the definition of that word (which for some reason I can’t find now!) included this piece of info: “Distantly related to home.”

You might try reading the definition of “hope” out loud and write in response. Or you could respond to the expression, “Distantly related to home,” and see what comes out. For me, it was the following poem.


Distantly Related to Home

He’s always in past tense:
his eyes were the color of clear black coffee, or
I used to sleep spooned against him all night.
The ghost of romance past comes riding in
on little electric waves of sadness, a sudden remembering.
The last time I was in this theater, he had surprised me
with tickets to a queer one man show,
and then,
a sinking feeling.
That’s over. In the past.
(You still love him.)

I try to focus on the present:
cooking for myself, planning a birthday cake,
choosing a bottle of wine my new lover might like.
But once the bottle is open and the candles are lit,
my new lover fades into the background
and last year’s love burns brightly:
a floodlight, a roman candle.
(You still love him.)

What is this attachment to someone who
couldn’t give of himself, who couldn’t
be present? Tell me, Dr. Freud.
The leftover need to be rescued
by my father? There was trauma there
but Daddy didn’t save me. So?
I’m still waiting for him to show up?

Because I loved standing on his feet, dancing
with him to Ella Fitzgerald. And I liked those flowers
misted with cold water, having lunch outside,
the sun on his cinnamon skin
felt like bring free.

“Maybe you just love being in love,”
a friend says, love addict to love addict.
Or maybe he was someone special.
Someone special: he was. Past tense.
(You still love him.)

“Call him,” another friend advises,
“that usually breaks the spell.”
But I’m too attached to the haunting
to give up the ghost. Too busy remembering
to dial his number.
There’s some payoff in this suffering.
(Something beautiful.)

The mornings he came back from the gym,
stripped naked and climbed back into bed.
The first day we met for lunch and he said,
“I should have ordered what you ordered,”
so I gave him half my salad.
“This is what I look like
before I shower,” he said.
Before we showered together.
Before I met his awful friends.
(Now that’s all in the past.)

So much easier, the longing.
To dig down to the truth takes work.
The romance fizzles then.
And who wants that?

It’s all I’ve got left.


The Beginning July 12, 2009

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 4:10 pm

I’m wary of entering the world of blogging with the high energy everyone seems to have, and then fizzling out.

So I’m going to commit to posting a poem or short piece here every week. A good goal that seems attainable.

This piece was generated from a prompt you might try at home or in your own workshops, classes or writing groups:

“If you were here. . .” (Yes. I did use the dreaded, overused ellipsis mark!)


If you were here, we’d be making a plan, a Pride Weekend plan, a disco, Pink Saturday, where-do-we-eat in-between-the-two-movies-at-the-film-festival plan.

If you were here, you’d be wearing something outrageous: a ruffled vest with no shirt, or short-shorts, or a pink boa.

(You are pink and I am yellow.)

If you were here, we’d have to watch out for one another, have to step carefully, have to seriously consider if Estasy is really something two grown men in their forties should do, and then perhaps split the hit in half before we ordered a ten-ounce martini: key lime, or chocolate, or pineapple.

If you were here and we were running late, I’d be stressing out, waiting for the bus, looking at my watch, and you’d pull me in against your chest, and I’d smell your clean, soapy scent, and you’d say, “Easy, Little One. Easy.”

You’ve been floating up into my thoughts all day. I see men with pale skin, large green eyes, hairy arms, long, thin legs, and I can feel myself longing for you, for you, dearly departed, dear, dear, Dean. Your love was unquestionable, your faith in me eternal.

Are you watching me struggle with French on the web sites I’m visiting that have no British icon, no translator? Remember when I asked you how to say carrot in French, and you said, “Carrote,” and I said, “Fuck you. I’m serious,” and you said, “It’s carrote, Little One,” and I thought you were giving me shit? Years later, I bought contact paper for my new apartment—a white background and little drawings of vegetables with their names in French—and there you were—here you are—rising up from the safe place I keep you, always keep you, too afraid to hold the truth of your absence out in front of me.

It’s normal, I know, to miss someone like this; you were my best friend, my closest friend. Brother, companion, where are you now?

And Randy—that little piglet Randy—remember your friend Randy?—he had the nerve to find me on Google. Sent me some chirpy little email—“I found you! I found you!—he said–“I think of you all the time!” Randy. I never really liked him. And I felt angry, having to tell him that you were gone—passed away—all the fucking euphemisms: you’re dead. I had to tell him. And all I could think was Why you and not Randy? He never did anything to me, but I was cold. I told him I didn’t want to chat—we were never that close. I’m like that now; I don’t want the superficial small talk. But I was really mad because it was you who had died and not Randy.

“Easy, Little One. Easy.”

That’s you, rolling around inside my head.

Waiting for me in line outside the theater. Holding a place in line for me.

“I’m sorry I’m late,” I’d say. “Parking was a nightmare.”

But you’d just pull me in and say, “I’m thrilled to be here with you.”

That’s what you’d say.

You would.