Those Winter Sundays

| Dots & Dashes

Another poem that has always meant a tremendous amount to me is Robert Hayden’s “Those Winter Sundays.” I love to teach it (but usually struggle to read it aloud to my students without choking up). I love the precision of Hayden’s choices–“Sundays too my father got up early”–that use of “too” such an efficient use of language, telling us so much about this father, his life, the burden of his days. And the extraordinary repetition at the end of the poem: “what did I know, what did I know / of love’s austere and lonely offices.” That repetition is both rhetorical and is a powerful dramatic moment that conveys the speaker’s regret.

While working on Dots & Dashes, I wrote a poem that is in many ways built on the scaffolding of “Those Winter Sundays.” In my poem, “Homeport,” I try to speak to the gestures of love that we often miss, specifically in the context of a military marriage, where duty can often feel as if it outweighs love and commitment to family. You can read the poem here at the Academy of American Poets, where it was first featured as a Poem-A-Day, on March 19, 2015.