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Love’s austere and lonely offices

Sunday, 23 November, 2014

What are the chances of having the word “blueblack” appear here twice in one week? On Wednesday, we had Sylvia Plath describing “The night sky is only a sort of carbon paper, Blueblack with the much-poked periods of stars”, and today Robert Hayden recalls his father dressing “in the blueblack cold.” Hayden’s beautiful acknowledgement of “love’s austere and lonely offices” is a reminder of this tragic truth about human affairs: love isn’t always articulate, and it’s often expressed too late.

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?

Robert Hayden (1913 — 1980)

My good shoes


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