Pet Shop by CR Callahan


There weren’t many no’s
in that Rikki-Tikki-Tavi childhood
filled with creatures found in our jungle
behind the orange trees
or purchased with offering money
at the pet shop by our church.
God didn’t miss the money
and we were unsupervised heretics
with air-holed containers
hidden in plain sight on the patio
by the bubbling aquarium and the bookcase
dusty with Modern Classics.
Our chihuahua lived in valid fear
of the boa constrictor
and our friends claimed the iguana
was a small dragon
fed on a diet of hibiscus blossoms
and fingertips.
We discovered the mortality of neglect
and had a corner near the back wall
where one had to be careful
when digging sad new graves.
Left to our own devices
we learned of possums, snakes, lizards
skunks, rats, mice, fish, dogs
and that forgiveness
is not available from the dead.
Our mother slept with the light on
eased shoes from the closet
with a hanger
stuffed towels beneath her door
and depended on us for rescue
when trapped on a toilet or chair or dresser.
We were he-men
our armor shining bright.
We hadn’t yet learned how
to disappoint our women.


CR CALLAHAN lives and writes in Auburn, Washington. He is a graduate of the University of Florida’s writing program where he studied under Harry Crews, Smith Kirkpatrick, and Padgett Powell – so many years ago.

RHINO 2017Jessica Terson