Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback 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?
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
"Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden
Today the guest on Terry Gross's NPR radio show Fresh Air was the former US poet laureate Billy Collins. He has recently collected and published recordings of poetry read by the poets themselves. Billy Collins introduced a poem called "Those Winter Sundays" by an African-American poet named Robert Hayden. It is a beautiful poem. The poem is a son's belated acknowledgement of his father's love. It is a melancholy remembrance of his youth when he is unable to penetrate the veil of appearances to understand the nature of his own father's feelings. The burdens of the father's responsibilities grind him down every day, perhaps make him bitter and angry but the love too is real, polishing shoes and driving away the cold.