Those Winter Sundays
by Robert Hayden
Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No one ever thanked him.
I’d wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,
Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know
Of love’s austere and lonely offices?
Robert Hayden is an amazing poet, one I’m only beginning to appreciate. This past week in my contemporary poetry class we spent almost a whole class on “Middle Passage,” which is an intensely sad poem in its own way, reimagining the Amistad through high modernism and the voices of the slavers on board. IF you’d like to read it, it’s available online through the Poetry Foundation. While this particular poem doesn’t really have anything to do with race, Hayden was an African American poet, the first to be elected as Consultant of Poetry to the Library of Congress (now referred to as Poet Laureate).
I picked this poem for this week because it came to me by fate. This week, the UVA libraries had a “poem in your pocket” day. They had bowls of little poems wrapped and tied into scrolls, which were free to anyone in the library. I picked this one! This is a poem that I read while I was at UNC, that I loved, and that I haven’t really thought about in two years.
If you’d like to hear this poem read out loud by the poet, click… here!
Sorry for the lack of updates from me… Perhaps I should call this poem of the fortnight not poem of the week! :(