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?
Robert Hayden was born in Detroit and educated at Wayne State University. His poetry books included Heart-Shape in the Dust and Words in the Mourning Time. He was the editor of Kaleidoscope-Poems by American Negro Poets. In this book, he warned against the black writer being consigned to a "kind of literary ghetto" where he would be "not considered as a writer but a species of race-relations man".