Hear the cold splintering.

Those Winter Sundays

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?

-Robert Hayden

Hear the poet reading his poem.

11 thoughts on “Hear the cold splintering.

  1. Oh, how I love this poem because it reminds me of my own dear husband who lights a fire in the wood stove each morning and warms the bed up for me each night.

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    1. Maybe the poet realized later in life that he didn’t understand, at least when he was a child, the emotions or behavior of his father. As an adult he knows more of the complexities of love and service, and can accept and appreciate his father better. He doesn’t seem to be haunted by the angers himself, but rather to have forgiven them for love’s sake.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kristi! I hadn’t thought of researching the poet, and I also didn’t know he had been Poet Laureate. The article you link to does enrich the experience of the poem, and also is very encouraging as a story of the strength of the human spirit that can grow and bear fruit even under harsh conditions. God bless him!

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  2. This last weeks of packing I’ve been lazy about commenting on blog friends’ posts but have read many of them. I read each of your posts about your visits east and enjoyed them very much. I read the poem here the other day, so struck by it reminding me of other men who worked so hard and were not given to expressing their feelings. I’m so glad I came back and listened to the poet read this poem himself. Some of the love for the father of the son all grown up was in his voice.

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