Robert Hayden (4 August 1913 – 25 February 1980) was an American poet, essayist, educator. He served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 1976–78, a role today known as US Poet Laureate. He was the first African-American writer to hold the office.
Hayden was elected to the American Academy of Poets in 1975. His most famous poem is Those Winter Sundays, which deals with the memory of fatherly love and loneliness. It ranks among the most anthologized American poems of the 20th century. He declined the position later called United States Poet Laureate previously, accepted the appointment for 1976–1977 during America’s Bicentennial, and again in 1977–1978 though his health was failing then. He was awarded successive honorary degrees by Brown University(1976) and Fisk, (1978). In 1977 he was interviewed for television in Los Angeles on At One With by Keith Berwick. In January 1980 Hayden was among those gathered to be honored by President Jimmy Carter and his wife at a White House reception celebrating American poetry. He served for a decade as an editor of the Bahá’í journal World Order. (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.)
This poem has always made me sad because often our kids don’t see the small things we do for them just because they’re our children — no matter what kind of behavior we exhibit other times. We just don’t understand our parents until we’re well past being of an age ourselves.
* * * * *
Those Winter Sundays
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?
Picture Credit: poems.writers-network.com