The Story Of The Cat That Drank The Sea

Riyas Qurana

In ‘The Story Of The Cat That Drank The Sea’ Riyas Qurana has used a very simple analogy to uncover the identity crisis an addict faces.


Riyas Qurana

Riyas Qurana is a contemporary poet known for several interesting poems.

Qurana's poems includeA Bird That Was Most Used Upand Love is not a Word.’

‘The Story Of The Cat That Drank The Sea’ by Riyas Qurana is a free verse poem composed of seventeen lines. A quick glance at the poem will tell the reader that it is about a cat from a black and white painting that dries up the sea by drinking up every last drop of it. The cat then is referred to as the sea and continues going about its day until it is eventually hit by a bus. It is implied that the cat dies from its injuries and so is redrawn, but this time as the sea itself. The analysis of this poem is divided up into five main parts; mainly discussing the cat that noticeably symbolizes an addict and the ocean that represents the subject of its addiction. Just as the cat devours the ocean and then becomes one with it, an addict devours the subject of its addiction so much so that it defines him and he can no longer be recognized without it. Qurana has used a very simple analogy to uncover the identity crisis an addict faces when he overindulges in his addiction.

The Story Of The Cat That Drank The Sea by Riyas Qurana


The Story Of The Cat That Drank The Sea Analysis

Lines One and Two

The drop that was sucked this afternoon
was the last one. The sea went dry.

Qurana opens ‘The Story Of The Cat That Drank The Sea’ by introducing “the drop” that was sucked dry. The reader supposes that the topic is an ordinary drink only to find that it was the sea that was sucked dry. This is done for a dramatic effect in order to provoke the curiosity of the reader enough so that their attention is on nothing but the upcoming story within the poem. The seagoing dry is also the perfect metaphor for the difficulty which is a strong theme in this poem. These lines alone announce to the reader that the account ahead is not a light-hearted children’s narrative as the title might have suggested. Furthermore, the main character of the poem is yet to be introduced; by introducing the action of the character (sucking the last drop) before introducing the actual character, Qurana is giving more importance to the actions of the cat than the cat itself. This is important to keep in mind as we establish what the cat and the sea signify in the poem.


Lines Three to  Five

From the moment the hungry cat in the painting
transferred the sea into its stomach
the black and white picture turned blue.

In line three the main character of the poem is finally introduced, and that too as a “hungry” cat. Hunger is an important adjective in this poem as it exposes the cat to be discontented and unfulfilled, which is imperative in understanding the relationship of the cat and the sea. It is noteworthy that the action the poem opened with was that of drinking but the cat was not described as thirsty, but rather hungry. This is interesting for the reason that the cat didn’t need to drink, let alone the entire sea but did it anyway. Much like the addition of an addict, he doesn’t need to do what he is doing especially at such a level that could harm him (like the cat that drank the entire sea) but he does it regardless. The subject of his addiction then becomes so tempting that even though he initially had no need for it he ends up indulging in it excessively. The reader is also told that the cat is not a real cat but one that is in a painting. This is significant because although the cat in the painting is supposed to be stationary it moves and lives a life; moreover, an addict could very much be an ordinary person who picks whose subject of addiction is a stationary thing in the lives of the people around him, but for him is as vast and deep as the ocean. Line five is crucial in understanding the nature of an addict as Qurana explains it. Just as the ocean turned the black and white painting of the cat blue, the addiction fills some colour or satisfaction into the life of the addict and that is why it is so hard for him to give it up; he truly believes his world cannot be lively without indulging himself in his addiction.


Lines Six to Nine

The sea jumps from one branch to the other.
In the gentle warmth of the kitchen
sleeps the sea with soft undulating waves.
A boy relentlessly chases away the sea.

Here, the narrative gets more fascinating. The narrator describes the sea jumping from branch to branch, which is the natural act of the cat but not the sea. The sea has now taken over the cat, so much so that it is unrecognizable as an animal and is appearing more akin to a body of water. In the beginning of this poem, the readers are told that the cat drank the last drop of the sea and here we see that it has taken over the body of the cat. This is an easy parallel to the story of an addict who has taken the last step to go too far and now is drowning in his addiction, so much so that he is unrecognizable as himself and more recognizable by the subject of his addiction. He no longer is an ordinary individual, but rather a functioning addict. The cat in these lines goes about his day as normally as possible, from jumping on trees to sleeping in a warm kitchen and having a boy chasing it away. The only thing is that it is not referred to as the cat which is it’s true identity but instead it is recognized as the sea, the subject which it excessively indulged in. this notion is quite significant as it is the fate of an addict who slowly loses himself in his addiction and his true identity is no longer recognizable. Line nine also emphasizes how the cat is then treated from enjoying a nap in the kitchen to being chased away; this falls in line with the life of an addict, who goes from the peaceful comforts of his home to a life where others are trying to get rid of him because his demeanor becomes offensive and brings discomfort to those around him.


Lines Ten to Fourteen

The sea with its tail bouncing,
rushes into the street only to be hit by a bus
and lies injured on the street.
The sea wobbles on the street
with waves murmuring softly, softly.

Line ten illustrates an image of a cat that is hastily on the run without much concern of where it is headed similar to an addict who loses control of the rest of his life due to his addiction and then eventually gets “hit by a bus” when the rest of his life catches up with him. He then “lies injured on the street”, which is significant because the street is a public place and an addict who is ruined at the hands of his addiction usually becomes a lesson for the public eye. The word “wobbles” in line thirteen symbolizes the instability in the life of the addict, and his instability is one that is visible to the public. Line fourteen suggests that the cat is dying as a result of its injuries, seeing that the waves (representing the urges of addiction merged with the heartbeat of the addict) become “soft” or light, essentially dying off.


Lines Fifteen to Seventeen

I redraw the cat in the painting.
The strokes turn into waves
Gushing all over the walls.

The last three lines of ‘The Story Of The Cat That Drank The Sea give the narrative an unexpected turn. The narrator of the poem redraws the cat, but when he strokes with the brush, outcomes waves instead of the cat that he was trying to paint, and the waves were not soft but wildly gushing all over the walls. This scenario signifies the memories of an addict who dies at the hands of his addiction. After the death of an addict, when the community and family try to “redraw” the person in their memories, the drawing is tainted with the addiction that they excessively indulged in. the memory and image of that individual will never be the same again because of the pain he not only caused himself but to those that surround him. By having the cat disappear altogether and be replaced by wild gushing waves that were out of the narrator’s control, Qurana is ending the poem with a strong idea of the lack of control and neglect that resonates with the life of the addict.  An addict who could not control his impulses and so concluded his life with neglect, irresponsibility, and wild behavior resulting in tainted memories and an outcome that was completely out of his control. Consequently, he becomes an uncontainable example to those who witnessed his descend and foolish finale to an intricate life.

Noor Rehman Poetry Expert
Noor has an Honours in the Bachelor of Arts with a double major in English Literature and History. She teaches elementary and high school English, and loves to help students develop a love for in depth analysis, and writing in general. Because of her interest in History, she also really enjoys reading historical fiction (but nothing beats reading and rereading Harry Potter!). Reading and writing short stories and poetry has been a passion of hers, that she proudly carries from childhood.

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