Monday 6 November 2023

Four Poems by Catherine Arra


It’s Your Fairy Tale


Travel you must into the woods, the swamp, castle, curse,

through each secret passage. Tunnel to the child, girl, woman

locked in the dungeon, the tower, poisoned by the apple

thrown off the cliff. Kissed by the prince or not. Find yourself

in the story. Light matches one, then another and another

to catch the wick of your soul and live.

Give witness to each death, betrayal, and ambush.

Mark them all with a cross and a prayer.



Orphan Hero


He’s hiding in the corner

of his cluttered room

cupping down ears

to silence the kitchen.


Mommy’s yelling, again

at Daddy—lazy ass, nose in ‘Motorcycle News’

while she makes dinner, after work

                        the work of the baby

the two-year old

in the corner, guilty.


He’s hiding in a corner

of the cluttered apartment

rented when she went back to college

            after Daddy,

playing his favourite secret hero game.


He’s the good guy since Daddy left.

She says so,

says, he’s Mommy’s hero

Mommy’s little man now. 

            He’s three.


Today he’s the invisible juggernaut

sneaking up on Mommy’s new guy

who wants to wreck everything,

when he hears her giggling girlfriends

at the door. 


She sends them everyday

different ones in the morning, in the afternoon

to find him, feed him

and mess with him   ‘til she comes home.

He hates when his cover’s blown,

when he’s picked up and mauled.

He goes limp, plays dead

            —a hero trick.

Or morphs into a Prince Charming doll

            —the cloaked identity escape.


He’s a good boy after all.

She says so,

says, he’s Mommy’s angel

Mommy’s little hero. And the hero

will bring her home, keep her home

and she’ll never leave him alone again

            not ever.


He’s gripping the tattered edges

of the wicker basket, bouncing

on the back of her bicycle

teeth clenched, terror twisting his guts.


He squeezes down his eyes

stops breathing.


He’s eating roasted chicken

again, though he hates it.

He’s making an adventure of every new exile

devising grand schemes of escape.

He’s victorious each time 

—saves his day

until Daddy #2 takes her away, for good,

gives her another little boy

she likes better than him.


He pretends it’s all a new cover

to keep new Daddy happy. 


He knows he’s still her favourite. 

She says so,

says, he’s Mommy’s best boy

Mommy’s little hero.

            He’s four

… forty … forty-four …



Cut Down to Size


All she wanted were sisters

to dance with at river edge, braid

daisies into each other’s hair,

share secrets.


Her grace too beguiling,

her heart too open, they worked her

into fireplace soot, chafed her hands

with washing, her knees with sorting seeds.


Sisters, so entitled, never learned

how resilience becomes strength,

a wish manifests, that you cannot steal

what doesn’t belong to you.


They never took stock in fairy tales,

spirit in hazel trees, the perfect slipper.

Never thought she’d score the prince,

a kingdom of gold.


Never expected the invitation

edged in delicate fillagree,

the royal request to be bridesmaids,

their feet too bloodied to accept.



How Do You Write an Elegy


for a love you dreamed

but never knew

though you married twice

had a pretty woman’s share of lovers?


Were the losses preordained

by the father whose love—

not the say-it-out-loud

kind of love

or the embraced-cuddled-approval

kind of love—

but a volatile, swamp dragon

street-angel, house-devil

kind of love

that sulked in mysterious lagoons

in reprimands, “No daughter of

mine is going to …”

in punishments, beatings

for crimes imagined, anticipated?


Have you mourned

your shattered heart, searched

to solder it back together

choosing men weak like him

as if you could change him

history, the outcome

and he’d finally see you, like you

love you for the disappointment

slight, the broken child that was him

instead of working so hard

to break you too?


Is this the elegy

for that little girl

who grieves the ghost

of him in herself?

Catherine Arra is the author of four full-length poetry collections and four chapbooks. Her newest work is Solitude, Tarot & the Corona Blues (Kelsay Books, 2022) A Pushcart nominee, Arra is a resident of the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, where she lives with wildlife and changing seasons until winter when she migrates to the Space Coast of Florida. Arra teaches part-time and facilitates local writing groups. Find her at 




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