After more than 40 years in California, I’d forgotten what cold was really like. Waking with the heat low and the cold seeping in, going out into wind that feels like icy knives. So I chose a poem by Robert Hayden, one that I plan to memorize soon. It seems relevant to any adult who looks back on their parent with a new understanding, and manages to evoke a lot of sentiment while skirting sentimentality.
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?