I have a pet named Habit

who has paws like a bear,

a bear made of humming strips of honey,

paws with retracted claws I refuse to remove,

and deep brown eyes,

so deep they crunch like autumn leaves

and smell like drips of maple syrup.


Each strand of fur appears auburn,

though up close they look burnt,

gold at the root and brown at the tip.

Somehow, ash and smoke changed his color

and his nature:

a golden retriever with a wagging tail

a brown bear with a wagging paw

a strawberry panther with a wagging jaw.


Habit can be useful,

like a husky with August burgundy spots

pulling a sled on candy cane runners.

But his puppy paws become a raging panther’s,

all too quick,

and the candy canes stick to the leaf-littered ice,

all too slick.


Then he taps me

on the shoulder,

traps me with a spigot

hammered to my bone for my maple sap to pour,

dripping like nectar from greedy lips

and blood from clipped hummingbird wings

and tears from drooling russet eyes.


I guess Habit wasn’t my pet after all.



By Rebekah Cook

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