In Which A Prominent Citizen of North Albany Moves On, C. 1954


They’d found him, emaciated and tick-ridden,

Down near the docks on Smith Boulevard,

Surrounded by several fellow tabbies

Possessed of the apparent inclination to disregard any taboo

Enjoining them from enjoying one of their own as a hors d’oeuvre.

He’d weighed no more than eight pounds or so,

Closer to six if you scraped off the mats and vermin,

But he’d gotten over that in short order,

As his diet consisted of fried chicken livers

And any bits of tuna sandwich his owner might leave lying about

(Though Jerry Kiley was not a small man himself,

And philosophically opposed to the notion of leftovers as well)

So before long he became utterly Falstaffian

(As Father Maguire from Sacred Heart tut-tutted,

Why, that tom is three stone if he’s an ounce;

He gets any larger, and I’ll insist you kick another two bits into the plate),

And Kiley had to fashion him a bed from a milk crate

Buttressed with sheet metal taken from a vat at the old Beverwyck Brewery.


He’d lived well (better ‘n me, Jerry often lamented) but too well, perhaps,

And he’d fallen prey to the maladies of the leisure classes:

Gout, diabetes, a wheezing which sounded for all the world

Like distant cows lowing in a fairly stiff breeze.

The vet had given him any number of pills and potions,

But it all was no match for his appetite,

And he’d ended up taking the gas before he turned five.


It was decided, in the course of conversation and consolation

At the North Albany legion post bar,

That such a kind and devoted soul

Deserved a send off befitting a noble gent.

A collection was scraped together in short order,

And a viewing-cum-wake took place at Jack’s Lunch

(Just up Broadway from Jerry’s place.)

Vittles Tuomi made a jerry-built coffin from the now-vacant cat bad,

And John Itzo snagged some fake flowers and a crepe-paper bird

From the brim of his wife’s old hat

(They being perched on a can of tuna soldered to the box

With the intent of nourishing him on his trip to the afterlife,

Jes’ like the pharaohs, according to Vittles.)

As the services progressed, some of the boys floated the notion

That the guest of honor should be (under the cover of darkness, natch)

Be interred at St. Patricks, but Father Maguire,

Attending the do as the feline’s ex officio spiritual advisor,

Gently reminded the prospective pallbearers

That His Grace the Bishop had denied burial in consecrated ground

For lesser offenses, and it was finally decided

That burial (it was assumed that he’d been responsible

For an unknown number of progeny, and it was also rumored

That he had a brother or twelve up in Watervliet)

Would be private and at the convenience of the family.


(AUTHOR’S NOTE:  This piece, such as it is, is built on the foundation of

an anecdote entitled “Langford, Prominent Cat, Dies” which appears in William

Kennedy’s Riding the Yellow Trolley Car.  The anecdote is pithy and witty; this

piece certainly is not the former and most likely comes up short on the latter.)











7 thoughts on “In Which A Prominent Citizen of North Albany Moves On, C. 1954

  1. gosh i love this and five is way too young for the gas! meow.
    somehow this poem reminded me of the movie Lars and the Real Girl. have you seen it? you should.

  2. I think this saga is wonderful. And it IS both pithy and witty. Reminds me of Damon Runyon’s characters, you know? So no putting yourself down, you hear me?

    The wake was the best part. I should have thought of that for my childhood dog, Taffy, famous for singing one and only one song: Judy Garland’s “Over the Rainbow.” She’d even wait for her cues!

    Thanks for a great last post to close out my day! Amy

  3. This is such a human story, even if it deals with feline death and internment. There is something in its characterization, which speaks of living larger than life, and something of endless compassion in the decision to see him into a fitting grave: that and respect for a fellow fallible traveller.

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