Poems inspired by Cormac McCarthy’s novel ‘The Road’

American writer Cormac McCarthy’s novel ‘The Road’ takes place in a very realistic post-apocalyptic setting and is about a man and his son who strive for survival by escaping the world’s horrors left behind by an unknown event. This event has not only brought destruction upon the Earth, but also upon its vegetation and population, leaving very few individuals fighting for their lives. The two protagonists are forced to go on a journey, to ‘carry the fire’, and they watch in agony as the world turns into a worse place than it already is.  

The unique imagery of the story describes as quite shocking; ash covers the sky, meaning little to no sunlight can get through to help vegetation revive itself. Most of the landscape consists of burnt elements, and any sounds from animals or humans are rare.

The scenery is meant to appear like a lifeless graveyard and the similes to death, pain, and misery become clearer and clearer throughout the novel. Acceptance and contemplation of anarchy are the main themes, and morality with the question ‘What is good?’ reflects on the reader. The term ‘relationship’ is defined profoundly throughout the journey, along with the sense of what can be seen as ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. The story ditto redefines what one understands when thinking of a society and how important such a society truly is for humanity. The loss of knowledge and language to express and communicate is shown upon the destruction of the world.  

Summary by Jonathan Zielinger


Leaves shivering violently in the dark woods,

No idea of direction they staggered on like drunks.

A moon somewhere with his mind betraying him,

Stumbling, slurring, tottering on his feet.

Warmth and movement. Heartbeat inside thin ribs,

Head slumping forward, in what direction do lost men veer?

A curve, a mailbox, a fence the road went along;

Shrouded in carbon fog, he sat beside the boy

Light enough to see, he stood in the grey woods,

An illucid world, a colourless world of wire and crepe.

How far had they come, how far left to go?

Starved, exhausted and sick with fear.



Two against the world

Through the dark woods, they set out, A moon somewhere beyond the ashen overcast. Staggering on like drunks, They ran from the danger.

The man’s mind began betraying him. He’d started imagining phantoms, Then looked at his son in desperate need Of getting carried.

Shivering violently, he woke up. Feeling about for the boy, Looking for warmth and movement, He made out a heartbeat.

Wondering how far they’d come, He stared at the cold illucid world,

Colourless and of wire and crepe. They had to go, he told the boy.

Stopping to rest each fifty counted feet, The man carried his son. He sat him down and looked at him. Starved, exhausted, sick with fear.

He leaned forward and kissed him. It is love that keeps us going.



he woke up and it was almost light enough to see,

the biting cold and the hunger,

trying to see about him in the gray woods,

the exhaustion,

he watched the day accrue,

the chary dawn, the cold illucid world, the uncertainty of tomorrow

we have to go

carrying the boy fifty steps forward,

followed by a swift rest on the gritty duff,

covering the starved boy in blankets,

biting cold



The dark and cold of the woods

Always followed.

We have to go, we have to…

In this terrible world,

The only thing that matters to me

Is his warmth and movement,

The beat

In this pure and innocent heart of his.

Sick of fear,

Starving and exhausted,

We keep on going

Through the world of dust.

Still, I see the old

Well-known object,

that is recognizable in this illucid world,

the moon,

somewhere beyond the ashen overcast.