“I like poems that kick me in the face.”
We had Halloween-inspired spiced pumpkin min-cupcakes at our monthly Poetry Study Group (I think of it as PSE & G: Poetry Study & Enjoyment Group), but we really were feasting on words — and how sumptuously we dined! Our savory poetic fare included Annabel Lee by Edgar Allen Poe, a passage from the epic Gilgamesh in a gorgeous rendering by David Perry, and A Noiseless, Patient Spider by Walt Whitman — along with poems by Dylan Thomas, John Milton, and Marianne Moore. I so enjoy the free-ranging way in which we corral our poems for these evenings: We each just pick a couple of poems we love, read them aloud, then talk about why they move us. Perfect!
And here’s something amazing: Tara, who guides our group, and I both chose exactly the same poem! What, I wonder, are the statistical chances of this occurring? On my end, I happened upon a scrap of paper with the words “Those Winter Sundays” and “Robert Hayden” scrawled on it and remembered that I’d seen this poem on a “Poetry in Motion” poster in the subway and loved it so much that I jotted the name down. A quick search on the Web and I had it in hand. Then, lo and behold!, Tara sat down next to me with a book of poems by Robert Hayden with exactly the same poem bookmarked! Isn’t the universe amazing? And now, a beautiful word feast for you as well:
Those Winter Sundays
by 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?