At the Checkout of Val's Pet Supply

Andrew Collard

I always hated how you loved
your bearded dragon, the days
you made me feed him crickets
caked in nutrients as boys, when
every street we walked was named
after a President, and you snickered
that the girl I crushed on
lived on Johnson. I used to think
you were the lilacs by the highway
out of town, spreading
the essential purple, less primary
than the same old sky we walked beneath,
resentful. Do you find yourself
disgusted at my memory, recoiling
when the dragon swallows, as I am
at yours, with your can of bug spray
and a lighter, scouring the garage
for something small to burn?
As I raise my bag of cat food to the register,
I sense your absence in the cardboard
box of water pillows sitting mostly emptied
in the desk’s corner, and am ashamed,
because I know if I can’t love you now
then I can’t love myself, and finding home
gets harder as I drive back down
these same old streets we grew from.