monthly ritual of shaving his head. It was August, and we were still living in the
Projects without a refrigerator. The sound of my mother fluttering through the
rosaries in another room reminded me of the flies I'd learned to trap in mid-
flight and bring to my ear.
"Vecchio finally died," my father said, bending to lace his old boots. "You
want to come help me?"
My grandparents lived in a green-shingled house on the last street before
the Jones & Laughlin coke furnaces, the Baltimore & Ohio switching yard, and
the sliding banks of the Monongahela. The night was skunk-dark. The spade
waited off to the side.
Before I could see it, I could smell the box on the porch.
We walked down the tight alley between the houses to get to the back yard
where fireflies pushed through the heat like slow aircraft and tomato plants hung
bandaged to iron poles. My father tore and chewed a creamy yellow flower from
After a few minutes of digging, he said, "Throw him in."
I lifted the cardboard box above my head, so I could watch the old white
cat tumble down, a quarter moon in the pit of the sky.
Poem by Maurice Kilwein Guevara