Category Archives: Hayden, Robert

Robert Hayden: Those Winter Sundays

Immediately we get the image of a hard-working man. The “too” implies Sunday’s are like every other day of the week for him in that he always gets up early – there is no rest, even on Sunday, the day of rest.

While I didn’t catch it right away, the “blueblack” is interesting not just as an image of morning, but also of a bruise, either on his on body from hard labor, but possibly implying a complicated domestic violence situation. Hayden mentions “chronic angers” which could be either the creaking of the house, or something far more sinister. His father not only builds a fire, but maybe there is rage there, too?

And why would there be anger? Perhaps because he was taken for granted? “No one ever thanked him” takes up half of the last sentence like it’s a plea to be noticed for his hard work – it’s right there in the final line taking up all that space, but there is a line break right after. He could have been thanked in that space.

More violent imagery with the “splintering, breaking”, not just as a fire crackles (or house creaks as it warms up), in the fireplace, but perhaps in his “chronic[ly] angry” soul, too.

It’s wonderful how the only image we get of him is of his “cracked hands” but we know he’s been a laborer “labor” and we can see him silently stoking the fire, walking about a cold house (literally and figuratively, “indifferent”), and sitting alone (“austere”, “lonely”) as he polishes those shoes.

There is even a juxtaposition between the “cracked hands” and the “good shoes”, of “labor” and “office”. It’s implied the father wants better for the son, not a life of labor, but perhaps one in an office and maybe with something that will offer respect and recognition.

Such a sad poem; it literally makes me cry when I think about this. It’s heartbreaking.