* Robert Hayden & the friday influence

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!

*the man*
*the man*

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.

4 responses to “* Robert Hayden & the friday influence”

  1. As a former high school English teacher (who often shared “Those Winter Sundays” with students), I do like accessible poems and Hayden’s often anthologized poem is a great example. Accessible and at the same time bona fide, doing what poetry, by definition, does. And “love’s austere and lonely offices”- what a line, what an impressive finale!

  2. Agreed, Tim! I especially love the last line as an example of how poetry pulls you into words, even if you don’t know them. When I first read the poem years back, I didn’t know the word “austere” – but through the poem I had a sense of what it was I didn’t know. Thanks for reading!

  3. I was so moved by your reading, Jose – and by your recitation of this poem…..goosebumps all around! Very proud of you, friend, and excited to see where this next year takes you!

  4. Thanks, Jess! Glad you finally got to see me read. Thank you for all the years of friendship and for reading some of my work along the way.

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