Catherine Arra

The Summons

Tonight, I will dream you back to my childhood,
to the room at the end of the hall.
I’ll find you hammering down sheetrock,
a sweaty silhouette in a jagged white hole.
I’ll stand in the doorway to witness your work and tell you
how my breasts couldn’t grow in that room,
how dancing under the eaves, I always bumped my head.

I’ll show you how I learned to live in the middle because
you liked me that way, because you never had the time
to renovate or a stomach for unboundaried spaces.
I’ll remind you how you would have burned me
at the bedpost, rubbed my nose in fear I peed
with the puppy had I asked or needed, and I did need
more, like the man strength to hammer down walls.

I’ll see again the skies I painted on each low eave,
the moon in its phases, the sun lifting apricot clouds.
I’ll remember how Mother defied you and permitted
them to stay, though six coats of paint wouldn’t cover
the mess when I finally moved out—still, it bled through.
I’ve heard you tell that story with an annoyed chuckle
to remind me of the chore of fatherhood.

But tonight, I will tell my stories and you will work
until you have listened and I have forgiven you, released you
after the decades of men I’ve loved to finally love you.

Tonight, I will summon you back.
By the force of my need, you will make a portal
and give me leave of this room once more and for all.


Catherine Arra is a former high school English and writing teacher. Since leaving the classroom in 2012, her poetry and prose have appeared in numerous literary journals online and in print, and in several anthologies. She is the author of Deer Love (Dos Madres Press, 2021), Her Landscape, Poems Based on the Life of Mileva Marić Einstein, (Finishing Line Press in July, 2020), (Women in Parentheses) (Kelsay Books, 2019), Writing in the Ether (Dos Madres Press, 2018) and three chapbooks. Arra lives in upstate New York, where she teaches part-time, and facilitates local writing groups. Find her at