With a sense of grief a son fondly recalls how he never appreciated his father's love when he was a boy.
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 (1913-80) is an American poet, essayist and educator. His works often address the plight of African Americans. He has written political poetry including a sequence on the Vietnam War.