Personal Choice 6

Those Winter Sundays


Sundays too my father got up early

and put his clothes on in the blue-black cold,

then with cracked hands that ached

from labour 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 ©

Robert Hayden (1913 – 1980) was an American poet, essayist, and educator. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1976 to 1978, a role today known as US Poet Laureate. He was the first African-American writer to hold the office.


Oh that we all had a father like Hayden’s and mine, Jim Guess. Perhaps as good as a father can ever be. And my only sadness now as I look back on his legacy to me was:

What did I know, what did I know

of love’s austere and lonely offices?


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