All night long the cat has wailed,
Halting the darkness in its trails;
I have groped and gulped water and peed,
Turned and tossed in my bed and quailed.

The kitten was young and its queries small,
The wheels that rolled were a game after all.
Did they yield food or did they shield death?
Thrilling it was to match that crawl.

A girl-cub or a boy-cub, no one knows
Save the grim pallbearer crows;
Who as they will in their ravenous mercy
Flick a quick luncheon-cum-autopsy.

Yet, it’s better when the quarry is strung,
Lynched by the neck and stealthily flung
Like a human foetus in a garbage dump
Unmoored, unmourned, unloved, unsung.

These pining cats, how they smudge their souls,
With claws of grief blacker than coal!
Winging it low the crows now flow
Looking for a hurled girl-child in throes.

97 thoughts on “The Mourning Cat

  1. This is perhaps the most poignant of all commentaries flooding cyberspace about the grim reality facing us today. The pain is stark as is the anguish. And if grimness can be made lyrical, it is this.

    1. Zephyr, the lamenting cat has left me terribly restless and it was so much more unbearable in the night. Somehow it has me left me convinced about the desirability of the kittens over human foetuses.

  2. Beautiful verse tugs at the heart,
    Factual prose sometimes cannot.
    Anger bubbles in noble chests,
    But, with whom does the answer really rest?

      1. Many people who would not resort to killing would still prefer at least one boy offspring. I believe that my parents had a ‘perfect family’ with just us two girls. But people still shake their heads sadly and ask ‘no brothers?’

        I can’t see things changing anytime soon.

  3. Muted wIth the last two lines. How you started with a simple Cat wail and what you have conveyed!! A heartrending verse…

  4. ..the pain and pathos couldn’t have been expressed more poignantly. Very deep and meaningful indeed!

  5. Sometimes some poems thrust through my inability to appreciate poetry. This was certainly one of them. As everyone pointed out, the last stanza created a huge impact

    1. First of all, Suresh, I feel honoured by your visit and kind comment. Sorry, you can not bluff me about your abilities!

      You and Rachna have definitely found the last stanza full of impact. Many thanks to you (both). To me, however, the last stanza doesn’t carry much impact without the first one or even the ones that follow. The cat’s grief, regardless of the gender of its dead offspring, is a ballast that keeps the human callousness afloat. Again, the preference of crows over unmourned quarries is a touchstone to the power of grief. It showcases how we have slipped below the normalcy naturally occurring in animals of purportedly lower order. You underestimate the cat’s lament or the crows’ preference and you strangulate the poem. Standing alone, the last stanza is a meaningless rhyme.

      1. Hi Uma! First let me assure you that I am not bluffing you about my abilities. I am the sort of person who understands only straight communication and when poetry uses allegories and imageries to communicate a subliminal message it escapes me. Also, the rhythm of poetry is lost to me since I lack the art of reading it properly. This is why i never have attempted poetry.

        As for your comment about my appreciation of the last stanza, all I have to say is that when someone appreciates a climax it does not mean that he fails to understand that the climax is climactic only because of all that went before it. So please do not think that my appreciation of the last stanza means that I wanted it to stand alone in exclusion of all that went before it. I only meant that it crowned all that was said before it.

        1. Suresh, there is a poem I wrote and there is a poem you read and we have both spoken of the same poem. We stand the same ground indeed!

          Thank you, once again.

          1. I only just read this comment of yours and Suresh’s reply. I agree with what both of you say. Pulled out of context, the last paragraph is meaningless. Keeping in mind the rest of the poem, the last paragraph provides a powerful and thought-provoking climax. You say with such few words, what I would require pages to say. That is the beauty of well-written verse.

  6. i will not go into the girl child issue even though i see subtle discrimination even in the big cities and in liberal families.

    a kitten thrown in the garbage dump is something we come across once in a while. some of them were brought home and stayed at my house for many years. if it’s too small then it may not be possible to save them. you have brilliantly expressed the pain and agony which they go through. they try to survive amidst all pain and suffering but they don’t know how.

    1. Deb, I understand your reluctance to be drawn into the girl-child issue and I respect your sentiments. As for your feelings towards the kittens, I thank God to have blessed this world with souls like you.

  7. I always feel short of words, when I read you, I fear I might end up commenting something stupid. This poem was very powerful and beautiful. 🙂

    PS: I love animals, especially Cats. I have rescued 8 stray cats and kittens and I have treated them like my babies. But they all grow up and find their own way. 😦

    1. Akshay, I feel blessed to have earned your continued support. A million thanks to you for reading, appreciating, commenting and being kind to the cats and helping them find their own ways.

  8. I had a cat once, the only pet I ever had …When it died, it broke my heart.

    Beautiful poem….you know I am not a great fan of poetry, but read this one over and over again.

  9. Reading this hurts. More so, as I reread, again and again. Hurts Badly. It is so real . The anguish, and the hurt and the trauma; and then the getting on in life for some, while for some, things get falsely redefined . How much, how long ? And why ?

    Uterine twists
    in utter agony,
    sqeezing dry
    with amniotic tears,
    but so many happy wails….

    For some,
    it was
    the last time
    they were happy.

    Life is a game,
    only some get to play.
    For others,
    it is all about penalty kicks
    into the trash.

    The Ump watches it all,
    wondering
    if these days the game is fixed…

    1. Hi Suranga! I can’t tell you how heavily the wailing of the cat bore on my heart the other night (and as it turned out, also the night that followed). It forced me perchance to reflect on the cruelty of humans who slaughter and fling foetuses and infant babies at will. I agree it is revolting and I am sorry to have written it.

  10. Your words are searing to the soul,today most people have iron-clad souls,it does not hurt them.

  11. Hi Umashankar

    Fabulous analogy you have used to allude to two big crises our country is facing … the female foeticide issue and the ill-treatment of animals.

    I live in a female dominated household and now fast being dominated by cats too – we started with one female kitten, which still dominates the kitchen area of the house and her daughter arrived last year (I wrote about her in an article), to take charge of the verandah outside the drawing room – she now has 3 of her own, sex not determined yet.

    And there are 3 ladies in the house as against 2 men. Goes without saying that I live in a household that respects and cherishes women – a woman, my mom, is in charge too!!

    So it is difficult for me to understand disrespect and disregard of women. Our country reveres women in the form of statues and ill-treat the live ones at home.

    Your message is poignant indeed, like another friend has already mentioned. Let’s hope that, be it cats or humans, our women see better times in the days ahead.

    1. Jayadev, yours is a tender soul the way its maker intended it to be. However, a staggering mass seems to be working against the very thread of nature. Something is going to snap soon; a calamity, a pestilence, a devastation could only be a corner away. And probably all we can do is just pray!

      1. Hi Umashankar

        I missed this note from you.

        Thank you for your nice words.

        But Yes, society seems poised for something terrible given the way things are shaping up in the realm. There is a disquiet and nobody is making an attempt to assuage the feelings of the majority.

        Sometimes a deluge or a tumult is the only solution … we are driving ourselves towards that.

  12. Great poem. The last stanza left me in awe. keep up the good work and I’ve decided to visit more often now 🙂 Kinda started liking your work here.

  13. Poignant lyrical expression of an unfortunate reality……on an optimistic note, things are changing yet we will take decades to bring any significant change in the mindsets.

    1. Sadly, lyrics and music are not going to dispel the darkness that has doomed our ‘shining’ land. If indeed we are witnessing the first faint rays of the sun, we may have reasons to rejoice.

  14. Horrifying truths indeed put so lyrically and poignantly. Hoping for change. I do believe it will be slow, but am sure, it will come about some day.

  15. Umashakar…This is a heart breaking piece….!
    It is dark, ugly and gloomy — and throws one down in the dumps! …., perhaps above all, compelling in its unabashedly emotional tone.Very beautifully penned.

  16. I read this poem as soon as you published it. And then I had to go back and mull over this brilliant and gut-wrenching poem, Umashankar. And I got the guts to come back and comment only today.

    1. Sudha, maybe we don’t fit in this world anymore. Ever heard a cat wailing? You won’t feel like eating your food. Then there are some who’d go and serve their own offspring into the claws of the crows.

  17. Wow! That was deep. I loved the way your words created a visual inside my mind when I read them. A grim tale but nonetheless brilliantly phrased and essentially disturbing! Kudos.

  18. I was dumb struck after reading the last line sir. Ashamed of being counted among those cannibals. Being born from the womb of a woman, even a mere thought of hurting her should be an end to their life. One of the many cruel forms of ill-treating a woman. Hate it.

    1. Preposterous it may seem but we cannot escape being counted as one of them. Maybe the time has come when we publicly lynched the murderers, both men and women.

  19. You continue to amaze me. I don’t believe I have read any poetry from you before. And now for this one – it saddens me, tugs at my heart. It is sad that life has indeed come down to this. How and why did we let it go so bad? The last stanza is so heart rending. I wish things get better. Earlier rather than later. On the last 2 lines, can it get worse than this or is mankind going to stoop even further? I wouldn’t be surprised if we do. With every such post, I respect you more USP!

    1. I am deeply indebted to you for those words Deepa. Our souls are scraping the seabeds of filth already. I hate earning accolades by writing on the grisly faces of our world for very personal reasons but the cat was insistent.

      If you go to the quarters called ‘Poetic Slip’ at my blog, you will find a few more poems. I must warn you though, you may find some of them disturbing.

  20. Deep, stirring, metaphorical; your magically painful genius immensely afflicts my soul. It fills me with angst and anger in equal measure. I haven’t read a piece of work more potent than this one. If your words could kill, there will be no more evil left in the world and if your words could heal, then life would be immortal. How I wish!

  21. Reading ur poem m ashamed as I just cannot bear the wailing of cats..but never thought of the agony which the cat might be undergoing..shame on me!!!!ur poem is an eye opener for me..human like me r really cruel..:(

    1. Its not your fault. We have all been trained to receive the wailing of cats as bad omen. But just as you say, they appear to be more compassionate creatures than us.

  22. How many times I read it on the day you posted and later too. My mind was still pulling me back to this one..Surang’s comments always mesmerize me. Today, am back to read her comment here..Couldn’t help sharing on my fb wall. Unfortunately, not many of the people in my list have the interest and capabilities to grab the essence of it. That’s ok. I am back here to re-read. Painful…

  23. very nicely written. combining a human factor and a kitten factor was very good thought. only in my life i have seen a dying dog due to cold and fever. localites tied him and stuffed his mouth with tobaco so that he says good bye much earlier than he was destined to 😦 😦

    1. Many thanks, Jkhona. That was a truly a dog’s death you described. The dose of euthanasia doled out by the kinder folks was a bit sadistic though! 😦

  24. Begins a new journey for me. The first of your poems that I am reading!

    Worth the occasion for a new foray into the world of a writer whom I have gradually begun to engage with and I must also say ‘admire’.

    Provocative!

  25. Dear US, I will be frank, it takes me time to understand poetry, and I am not so good with words. So, I agree with all the praise readers have written here, and I want to thank you for this beautiful, compelling and dark verse. I don’t remember when I last cried reading a poem. The topic is an issue very very close to my heart, and this piece is as brutal as it is poignant.

    1. Welcome to the Blog, Nomad. You words are just perfect, don’t ever say that. I agree the poem is dark. It deals with a darker, grisly strain of humanity. Even the animals are kind to those borne of their own flesh.

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