Poetry and Prose from Catherine Arra

Don’t Ever Touch a Wounded Animal

The black Lab bolted from the girl’s side, leapt the six steps from porch to yard, galloped full thunder, hind legs tumbling up and under like a panther in open throttle. A barking black streak of lightning running toward the horse and rider walking idly on the opposite side of the rural main street.

The girl sprang upright, screamed, “Teddy, no!” but raw instinct is deaf. Louder.

“No. Stop. No. No!” An echo in an endless last moment.

Wheels burned pavement. A fleshy thump. The unfurling howl. Then another and another, like wolf cries in a hollow night, a fire horn, “Help me, help me.”

“Mom!” the girl hollered into the house. “Teddy’s been hit!” And ran too, full thunder to the street.

The car had stopped, pulled aside; the horse and rider were specks in the distance. The dog lay on its side, nose pointed home, brown eyes looking up at the girl, blood streaming from his mouth, the O-shaped howl quieting.

She dropped to her knees, ready to trade a piece of her life to save his, to hold and heal him whole again. A thick-knuckled hand grabbed her arm, yanked her away. It was the man who had struck the dog. “No, sweetheart. Don’t ever touch a wounded animal.”

“He won’t hurt me,” she said, and pulled away, turning back, kneeling, reaching; the brown eyes seeing her, recognizing, the panic and confusion retreating, and then the cold glass stare.

She covered him in blind weeping.

The mother arrived. The man in his damaged car left without demand, weeping too, someone said. The grandfather buried the dog near the girl’s kitten. The girl went to her room.

When the father and two sons returned from the afternoon motorcycle races, the mother told them. The father retreated to the family room and sat on the edge of an ottoman. The girl followed and sat nearby. He stared wide, and then his eyes pooled with tears that wouldn’t stop. His shoulders curled inward. His head fell. And he too howled. The girl had never seen him cry. She didn’t know he could. She couldn’t take her eyes away.

He straightened against her piercing awareness, attempted composure, failed, and hardened in a full body turn. “What the hell are you looking at?” he bellowed into her face, then broke down again, gulping, “What’s the matter with you? Don’t you have any feelings?”


         for A

You are the bumblebee

in lavender, kissing periwinkle spikes,

making lacey stems sway in a July morning,

moist with humidity and dew.

Your search for nectar, endless,

your purpose in greater nature, unknown.

Like this, you found me

in a pollinating circuit of cyberspace.

“Thoroughly enjoyed your poems,” you wrote,

quoted lines, named publications.

“Who are you?” I asked.

And so began our mutual love

of words, ideas, beauty, art

in a thousand floral taps and scripts,

exchanged poems, edits,

in miles of personal history

with no regard for the consequence

of falling in love, until

the prosaic punch of your marriage, our distance,

the sting of secrets and denial

ended summer’s brief affair between

a yearning bee and a waiting flower.

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 www.catherinearra.com

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