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I screamed
when I first saw him,
a bounding black cloud
thundering toward my horizon:
a boy looking for a friend.

He stayed with us
until that day
I had to stack the shelves and sweep the floors,
direct customers to the canned
whole chickens in aisle five

while They did whatever it is They do
to friends who once escaped the yard
to find
me at school during recess and
the principal let me walk him home but
who can’t walk anywhere anymore.

So, I get it.

But when my son’s eyes are red-rimmed and
welling with rage at yet one more
failure / betrayal / Talk
with a father trying too hard
because

he knows what’s coming demands more than
paper-or-plastic or expired milk or stray carts and
his son bears the brunt of that fear until
their ties twist taut and love becomes
a strained and brittle mask,

please forgive my snicker at your dog-parent sticker.