Poetry Day 5 – those winter sundays

Today’s poem is “Those Winter Sundays” by Robert Hayden

My own father’s passing a few years ago makes this poem even more painful for me to read – and that much more important, too.

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.
Here, Hayden’s one word “too” is so wonderfully loaded – so much love behind that “too”.
I could always count on Dad to be this father “Those Winter Sundays.”  He’d wake up early and make sure my car was in good shape – the snow dusted off, the parking space dug out, and the car warmed up.  And I’m sure I did not thank him the way I should have.

The lines that pain me are the last two, of course:

What did I know, what did I know
of love’s austere and lonely offices?
The repetition of “What did I know” just kills me with its echo.
Even now as a mom to two young boys, I’m sure I do not fully understand Dad – and I sense there might be some loneliness to fatherhood that makes it quite different from motherhood (or maybe just an entirely different kind of loneliness). Though we’re partners and we have many conversations about our children, I’m sure my husband and I do not experience “those winter Sundays” the same way.
Like “lovely austere and lonely offices” the poem is quiet, subtle, and gentle even as it so beautifully fulfills its duty to ________ (you fill in the blank).

 

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