The Catalyst

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

Brown Eyed and Beautiful February 4, 2012

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 8:20 am

I offered this prompt to my participants in Mexico last month. I often play songs as prompts, and this time I played “Los Ojitos Negros” (Little Black eyes, or “black eyes” said with affection or love). The lyrics to the song are below, in Spanish and in English. They’re from an album by The Chieftains titled, San Patricio and this song features Ry Cooder and the haunting harmonization of Los Cenzontles.

What I wrote in response follows.

Lyrics in Spanish:

Ojitos negros ¿adónde están que no los miro?
Me acuerdo de ellos, pego un suspiro,
¡ay ojitos negros, sabrá Dios dónde andarán!
esos ojitos son muy bonitos,
esos ojitos son muy hermosos,
esos ojitos son muy preciosos,
¡ay, ojitos negros, sabrá Dios dónde andarán!
Todos me dicen que por ahí andan,
que por ahí andan, por la estación
y yo los vi y ellos son
¡ay, ojitos negros! dueños de mi corazón.

Lyrics in English:

Black eyes are not where I look?
I remember them, hit a sigh,
Black eyes oh, God knows where they will walk!
those eyes are beautiful,
those eyes are very beautiful,
those eyes are very precious,
Ay, black eyes, God knows where they will walk!
Everyone tells me that walking around,
that out there walk, by the station
and I saw them and they are
Ay, black eyes! owners of my heart.


Tell me about your childhood

and I will tell you about mine.

I want to know how you were loved,

the nicknames your parents gave you,

the stories your mother used to read to you

at bedtime.


I’ll tell you about lasagna,

Christmas morning, and the big

dog who guarded my playpen

who wouldn’t let my brothers near

even though they had raised him

from a puppy.


I want to know about the little

boy, not the gangly adolescent

or the hunky man in a jock strap.

Show me how you like to be held.


Describe the nights when you slept

soundly, voices of angels in your head,

like wind instruments telling you

everything that is lovable

everything that is safe.


Show me how to make

those little butter cookies,

how you press them with a fork

how you dust them

with powdered sugar

and it shows up white

on your beautiful brown face.


Show me how your mother’s hands

worked the dough, how they pressed

into it with that palm so familiar.

Show me the games you played

on long, lazy Saturday afternoons.


I’ll open to you the way I used to,

before I was worried about retirement

funds, or sun-damaged skin, or losing

my best friend to AIDs.


I’ll show you that part of me—

young, brave, confident—

the one who never lost anything

or anyone.


Before I compared myself to other

blue-eyed beauties

when my eyes were green

and I turned back handsprings

on the front lawn.


Before Madonna and ATMs

and Smartphones, when

there was just this little heart

and the small, perfect world

I inhabited.


Tell me about yours.

I’ll look into your dark

brown eyes.

I’ll listen.