Those Winter Sundays – 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?
This week on the Influence – Robert Hayden!
This poem gets a lot of love – on the internet, in anthologies, in classes – and deserves every bit of it.
I opened up my reading this past Tuesday with this poem, reciting it from memory. It is one of those poems I’ve carried close to me for years now. The poem never stops teaching me something.
Here’s what I said about it at the reading:
This poem opened up a lot of doors for me. It is a poem of presence: blue black cold – splintering breaking – there is presence in the very sounds! But the poem ends with that question – What did I know, what did I know… and that question comes from a place of absence. The origins for my book The Wall started from a similar absence, from not knowing my father at all growing up because he died when I was six and spent most of those last years in prison. The poems start from absence – like a blank page, and the poems fill it up.
This week was a big week for me – I don’t get them often.
Thank you to everyone who was a part of it.
See you next Friday!
p.s. A little more love for Hayden from the Poetry Foundation can be found here.