The black cat dies is my refrain, and with her flies childhood. Theirs — my children’s — not mine.
I dug two graves this morning. The dry, funnel-shaped one left me unsettled. It meant I’d have to arrange the body, curl her like an Ouroboros, nose tucked into tail. I struck the ground harder with my shovel, trying to widen the hole, repeating the poem my son wrote when he was eight:
Akasha the cat is bad
She’s black and rad
And altogether glad
To be a cat
He sang it to her, and, when he left for college, his brother took over the recitation. He’s all grown up now, too, but Kasha still seemed to recognize the cadence of the words, even up to her end.
For me, the poem was an incantation. Like a witch reciting verbal charms over her cauldron, the black cat sat on my lap and those words invoked images of afternoons filled with outings with my boys, like the one to the animal rescue where she spotted us. My young sons answered her silent siren call when she extended a paw through the bars of her cage. I was not impressed and pointed out sleek and shiny cats, ones requiring little grooming. This fluffy-tailed feline no doubt would get knots in its fur, kitty litter stuck to its backside, and plum-sized hairballs. She licked their fingers. Then, cat and boys looked up at me.
She was with us for over twenty years, and the first grave just wouldn’t do. It was too narrow, and I never once saw Kasha go to that area of the yard. The back of my tiny garden where the tomato trellis grows up the wall in summer seemed perfect. It was easy to dig there, the soil black and loamy. I lined her grave with clippings of lavender and perennial basil and covered her with them, too. I imagined looking out at the garden while I write. The vine growing out of her would be heavy with deep red tomatoes, the fruit another invitation to reverie, to memories of youth. Hers, theirs, mine.
My husband said it was unsanitary to bury an animal where food is grown. He’s digging a third grave in an unvisited place.
The black cat is dead, and childhood has flown. I see now the fruitlessness of incantations to the past. My sons are men, but motherhood persists. It shifts form. One only has to imagine a cat blossoming into an heirloom tomato to understand the possibilities.