Two Dog Night - Gene Amondson
Those Winter Sundays - Robert Hayden
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?
This is one of my favorite poems, mostly because of the strong winter imagery. Robert Hayden has achieved a powerful image, and having grown up in the north, I can relate to the terrible weather that encourages everyone to stay in bed. His words like “blueblack cold” and “splintering” create a sense of pain, which strengthen the empathy a reader feels towards the family. “Blueblack” reminded me of a bruise or the early morning sky, a time that makes the air feel even colder. The word itself is harsh and direct – I think I fell in love with this poem on that word alone.
The first line is important because it stresses the father’s efforts to crawl out of bed every morning – even Sundays – and warm the house. It’s a wonderful twist, for the family described in the poem is quite cold; the narrator is afraid to rise even after the fire’s heat has spread. I enjoyed the poems contrasts: the bitter cold outside against the warmed interior, and the lack of gratitude of youth against the later appreciation and understanding.
I believe this poem is relatable, especially because of the vagueness of the characters. Besides the “cracked hands”, there are no adjectives that describe their appearance or individual personalities. And having all been children once, we’ve all been in situations where we didn’t understand our parents, didn’t comprehend their efforts, didn’t thank them.
The last line was so powerful as well. “Austere” and “lonely” are sad, silent words that reflect the mood of the household. The fact that the author chose the word “offices” was interesting as it hinted at the “workplace”, as if love is a job that must be done no matter what you get in return.