A Ken Cathers’ poem



[click on the title for a properly formatted version]

my  father left
no words

to relieve this

a quiet man
from a silent

he left no stories
to grow on
no dreams
to believe.

my sons
I come from a
dark settlement

know only the music
of cries
& whispers:

                       a sad inheritance.

my sons
I have spent
a whole life

constructing a shelter
of words
against the storm
I cannot escape

part of everything
you have
so easily
left behind.


17 thoughts on “A Ken Cathers’ poem

  1. Yesterday on “Kafka’s Ruminations,” a Blog by Virgilio A. Rivas that I try to read daily, Rivas discusses a poem by Jose Garcia Villa:

    First, a poem must be magical,

    Then musical as a sea-gull.

    It must be a brightness moving

    And hold secret a bird’s flowering.

    It must be a slender bell,

    And it must hold fire as well.

    It must have the wisdom of bows

    And it must kneel like a rose.

    It must be able to hear

    The luminance of dove and deer.

    It must be able to hide

    What it seeks, like a bride.

    And over all I would like to hover

    God, smiling from the poem’s cover.

    Read his analysis of the poem here.
    What do you think?

    What would you write about Cathers’ poem?


  2. Here’s my response to the Cathers’ poem:

    Start with the title.
    “Sons” – this word establishes the audience: the next generation.

    First line: “my father” – looks back a generation.

    Time is one theme.

    Life exists through time. We can fill time with stories and dreams if and only if we have the time and the imagination. Some lives are filled with nothing but work, hard work necessary to obtain the necessities for the next generation. Some fathers are silent. Why? We are not given reasons for this silence, but we know it exists. The poem asks us to look back and forward and compare our own experiences with those being related.

    The poet tells us briefly of his place – the place he came from, “a dark settlement” and then speaks of his attempts at telling a different story, a shelter a construct that may assist in protecting against the “storm”.

    What is the storm?

    For me it is the absurd.

    Tara is correct. It is sad. But just what is the sadness? The past? The future?


  3. The poet is trapped by his father’s silent life, and now his own life has trapped him, too. The poet created the “storm” he’s trapped in. It didn’t have to be that way, but he doesn’t know how to change (if he even WANTS to change). He sounds envious of his sons who can leave his past behind them and move on.

    Bob, I had to do some Googling to figure out why the poem is “the absurd” and found the following on SparkNotes.com. “If we try to reconcile the conflict between our need for answers and the world’s silence, we will be evading the absurd rather than confronting it. Camus characterizes our confrontation with the absurd with an absence of hope, continual rejection, and conscious dissatisfaction. Living with this conflict is neither pleasant nor easy, but trying to overcome the conflict does not answer so much as it negates the problem of the absurd. Camus is interested in whether we can live with the feeling of absurdity, not whether we can overcome it.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your take on the poem. You could have simply gone to the Camus page here on epi, Tara. Bob has written on the absurd.

      Perhaps the poet will have some comments??


      • sob1989, I never took a philosophy course, and I never heard of Camus until Bob wrote about him. I just knew that the word “absurd” means ridiculous, silly, foolish, or unreasonable. My eyes glaze over when I read a sentence that contains 58 words and 6 commas like this one:

        “Absurdism is a philosophical stance embracing a wide range of relativist perspectives, which implies that the efforts of humanity to find or absolutely define, limit, express or exclude the inherent meanings of anything, including human existence, are absurd because the qualities of communicable information available to the human mind, and relationships within Reality makes any certainty about such impossible.”

        Does “sob1989” mean you graduated college in 1989?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Here is Bob:

          “In Camus there is a precise use of the word “absurd”. “Absurd” comes from the Latin surdis and in surdis we have a dual definition: it means irrational, insensible (from that side of it we still use the word in mathematics; a ‘surd’ is an irrational number). But Camus concentrates on the other meaning which comes from the root. That is, “deaf, silent”. There are many examples in literature of this particular kind of silence. I think of Romeo and Juliet when Juliet has been ordered by her parents to marry the County Paris, and in one of Shakespeare’s best scenes in that play, he has Juliet’s father talking (and, as you recall, he has already set up at the beginning of the play a certain moral stand, a certain set of values which he violates constantly; by the end of the play we know that Lord Capulet is at best a liar) in some very vicious language. Lord Capulet orders Juliet to marry Count Paris. She protests, to no end. She then turns to her mother who only says that you will do as your father says. Then, in desperation, she turns to her nurse, who, in her inimitable way, she says well, marry him, two husbands will be better than one, you will have more fun in bed. At this point in the play Shakespeare has, and the stage directions are implicit in the lines themselves, left Juliet alone, alone on-stage, and she kneels and she turns now from her earthly father to her Heavenly Father and says: “Is there no pity in the clouds that can see the depth of my grief?” And there is no answer, only silence. That is the absurd.”


  4. Thank you everyone for your interesting comments. Bobs insights were especially accurate. One of the origins of this poem is a line from a Bob Dylan song that goes Come in, I will give you shelter from the storm. I heard this at a time when both Inge and I had a parent in palliative care and our own sons were moving away from home to start their own lives and raise their own families. It made me aware of our situation as being a temporal link in a chain of generations.

    As parents our main concern had been to nurture and protect our children. To provide them, as it were, shelter from the storm.. The storm refers to all of the potential dangers of the external world: war, disease,accident.It also refers to the psychological and emotional turmoil of the inner world that every conscious person must confront: doubt, fear ,despair, loss. This is what Camus refers to as the absurd.
    The random, meaningless nature of the universe. This is, obviously, not something one overcomes. It is what one confronts while still trying to create a sense of meaning out of life. The surprising thing to me was how uniquely individual this struggle was, how little could be inherited or bequeathed.

    This is, of course, only an interpretation from my point of view written in hindsight. When I set out to write a poem I do not have a plot or complete argument that needs to be worked out. The poem generally begins with a few, images, ideas, phrases that hopefully coalesce around an emotion or incident. At times the hardest part is to allow the poem to develop according to its own principles without imposing ones own design or opinions upon it. Ultimately a poem is a form of communication. Its intent is not to persuade, coerce of pass judgement. It is an attempt to share ones experience of life in a way that is both accurate and visceral.


    • Thanks, Ken. What an articulate, sensitive, objective analysis of your own poem. I particularly like what you say about creating a poem!
      Were you an sob?


  5. Thanks for your comments, everyone. I learned something!! Years ago, my sons’ father, an inorganic chemist whose hobby is astronomy, told me he doesn’t try to ponder what is beyond the known universe, because it boggles his mind.


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