Cerberus Revisited

“Wretched soul that I am,” he said, “I have no heart for a pet.”
Ciacco the Glutton

Raw flesh is not for sale at PetSmart,
but then you wouldn’t expect it to be,
just as you wouldn’t expect to find a three-headed dog
with the tail of a serpent hunched over in a ferret cage
with an eviscerated plastic toy floating in a water bowl.
The howls coming from this creature are almost human,
about a quarter female, like Echinda, the monster’s mother.
They’re enough to make the newly neutered tabby cat
break out of its own cage to offer the creature its dried-out teats—
enough to make me forget my moratorium on new pets.

Nearby, less maternal, a dachshund-poodle mix, twin black labs,
and retired greyhound with the face of Hercules
settle on their haunches, watching the pathetic mongrel
dropped off earlier by an obese old man in dark glasses. 
Outside the store, rain, sleet, snow, and hail are falling
on shoppers who have gathered at the window to stare.
Only the courageous can enter the automatic door now,
which is how I came to be here, just as brave and wise as Virgil,
listening to the old man tell his tale of woe to the assistant manager.
Who was she to know the animal was not his to give?
Who was I to know that Ceberus was not mine to buy?
When you’re standing at the gates of hell with a charge card,
even a monster can look like a faithful companion.