Speaking indifferently to him, who’d 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, “Those Winter Sundays”
I was first introduced to Robert Hayden’s poem, “Those Winter Sundays” while doing double duty as single mother and non-traditional student. Those days were frantic and full, and as such, I could relate to both protagonist and anti-hero in this poem.
Better make that five. . . because I almost forgot the me who needed to collapse and just scream from the insanity of it all. (yes, there is mental illness in this recipe too, surprise!)
There was never enough skin or bones on me, it seemed, to excel at any of those things. Mostly I felt like we were just getting by on what little we had to work with.
I had such dreams then too. I was going to get a wonderful job, sell my screenplay, get the house with the picket fence; I WOULD make a home for us on my own. I wasn’t getting help from their dad; he didn’t have the means to do it.
I was angry about that then.
Now that anger has evaporated into clouds of anguish that won’t stop raining these days. . and here I sit, swimming through the muck of it all. . .because idiot that is me, I lost them in the water somehow. I lost the truest loves of my life.
And at the moment, I am sick with treading against the tide. . . and the dam breaking. . .and I just can’t reach out for fear of taking everyone else down with me. ..I don’t even know how to reach myself anymore. Except to take it a day at a time, I guess.
And be thankful that my parents can still be there for me at the hardest times too.
Ironically here I was the day I first found that poem as I find myself now, so full of the same kind of longing. . .and falling so very short of my desperate expectations.
I remember too how Hayden’s last couplet made me stop and reconsider all the words I had wasted complaining as a child, but even more than that I realized the importance of pauses to just let go in the moment and be thankful.
Now it makes me wish we all had the maturity to embrace this kind of wisdom while we are young and still a little bit hungry.
splintering, breaking. The rooms were warm, he’d call,
poisons the air like fallout,
I come again to see
the serene, great picture that I love.
Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flesh of light
that was not, was, forever is.
O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.