One Catalyst, Three Poems

Being a Volunteer has its perks.

Photo by Ruffa Jane Reyes on Unsplash

Friday afternoon I had an opportunity to be a volunteer again for the Catalyst Festival that is taking place this week here in Duluth, October 9–13. Friday was my second day at Fitger’s, having attended the panel discussion Reading the Room yesterday. Today I was a greeter, smiling and helping direct people to the sessions there, standing by a chair on the stairs, pointing them away from a door and encouraging them to climb another half flight.

“When you reach the top make a right.”

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I had my pen and notepad with. Being a writer, it’s something I’m seldom without. Between sessions, when there were occasional lapses of activity, I scratched a few notes on my pad, penned a few haiku, captured poetic phrases and described the scene that lay before me, which was essentially walls, rails, stairs and the pattern of tiles on the floor.

The stairs especially noodled my imagination. I waltzed down various dead end streets in my mind — wondering what kind of wood the beams were, what color stain was used — but also found a connection between our role as volunteers and these stairs the people had been climbing all day. Here’s what emerged.


(A Metaphor for the Volunteers)
Stained and polished
awaiting to fulfill their function
stepped on all day long
while helping others ascend.
“We’re here to take you higher.”

Let me add that the “we’re stepped on all day long” only refers to the stairs, not us volunteers. In reality, the volunteers have been having a very special experience. Neuroscience has now revealed that when we smile at one another and make eye contact, we get a dopamine rush. So, all afternoon Friday it was like one of those IV bags of fluid they put you on in the hospital dispensing timed release morphine droplets. Not exactly that, but you get the picture. That poem, in too rough draft condition to share here, was titled The Dopamine Effect.

At one point a creator and an executive were talking animatedly and I overheard these words: “You need a story. You need an amazing story.” Which served as a catalyst for the following poem.


(For Creators)
Step it up.
Then step it up another notch.
Take that first idea and amp it.
Zap it!
Make it move.
Make it come alive.
Strike it with lightning!
Now teach it to dance.
Add a dose of romance
and maybe…
The magic will happen.

If you live in the vicinity and want to volunteer this weekend, the festival could use your help. There might be magic for you, too.


Originally published at
The title says three poems, but The Dopamine Effect didn’t make the cut.
Maybe it will appear after a future edit.

An avid reader who writes about arts, culture, literature & other life obsessions. @ennyman3 Look for my books on Amazon

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