A JOURNAL OF EXTREMITY

CalebGenius, "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden

CalebGenius, "Those Winter Sundays" by Robert Hayden

Those Winter Sundays[1]

Sundays[2] too my father got up early[3]
And put his clothes on[4] in the blueblack[5] cold,
then with cracked hands[6] that ached
from labor[7] in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze.[8] No one ever thanked him.[9]

I’d wake and hear the cold[10] splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he’d call,[11]
and slowly I would rise and dress,[12]
fearing the chronic[13] angers of that house,[14]

Speaking indifferently[15] to him,
who had driven[16] out the cold
and polished my good shoes[17] as well.
What did I know, what did I know[18]
of love’s austere[19] and lonely offices?[20]


  1. Derived from the popular phrase “those were the days.” If one removes the recurring “those” and “days” then a concealed title, “Winter Sun,” is revealed. And since poetry is meant to be read aloud, “Winter Sun” is also “Winter Son.”  ↩

  2. The day of regret. The weekend has passed with so many things left undone. Like that hour just before sunset when the feeling of another day wasted settles over the city.  ↩

  3. My own father rising early to review the sermon he is to deliver. Kneeling at his desk to pray for the guidance of the Holy Spirit while the wife and children he will one day leave are still sleep in their beds. I do not remember hearing him preach but I am sure he spoke the way water flows.  ↩

  4. Unlike Noah, who had to be covered by his two eldest sons.  ↩

  5. The sea beneath the shadow of a whale.  ↩

  6. Unlike his face, which eroded as the days passed but never cracked.  ↩

  7. “If Man becomes an animal again, his acts, his loves, and his play must also become purely ‘natural’ again. Hence it would have to be admitted that after the end of History, men would construct their edifices and works of art as birds build their nests and spiders spin their webs, would perform musical concerts after the fashion of frogs and cicadas, would play like young animals, and would indulge in love like adult beasts. But one cannot then say that all this ‘makes Man happy.’ ” (Kojeve, Introduction to the Reading of Hegel pgs 159–160)  ↩

  8. At first the ashes look as dead as a beach at night, but if you put your hand over it you can feel the heat. You kneel down and blow gently to find a glowing ember. You add some paper or dry leaves or wood shavings and lean in to blow again  ↩

  9. It is truly right and just.  ↩

  10. I always thought my father’s silence came from embarrasment or shame. What if it was out of an indifference, a coldness?  ↩

  11. On a birthday, maybe, or around Christmas. He’d talk for forty minutes or so, asking questions that I’d answer with a word or two, then say “I guess I should speak to your brother now” and hang up after talking to him for two or three minutes.  ↩

  12. Buttoning up the shirt. Straightening the collar and cuffs. Checking the face in the mirror. Wishing more tasks to delay opening the door and going down the steps.  ↩

  13. It persists despite treatment. The slightest thing brings it back.  ↩

  14. As opposed to home.  ↩

  15. Coldly.  ↩

  16. Once I remember he flexed his bicep and I thought he was the strongest man I had ever seen.  ↩

  17. Made them shine a blueblack gleam.  ↩

  18. You can here it underneath: does it explode? does it explode?  ↩

  19. From the Ancient Greek αὐστηρός (austērós) which means “harsh, rough, bitter.” And it is also related to αὔω (aúō) which means “to light a fire.”  ↩

  20. During the years I was sure I’d kill myself, I kept writing poems with lines like “I do know something of love’s austere and lonely offices.” I was wrong. I didn’t know anything. I thought love meant something like need, something like wanting.  ↩

"Gags"

"Gags"

"Brandon's Car World" Pt. 2

"Brandon's Car World" Pt. 2

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