The Service Of Men

Today’s lovely poem within Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, “My Mother’s Shoes,” by Frannie Lindsay, calls to mind an earlier masterpiece, “Those Winter Sundays,” by Robert Hayden:

“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?”

Is it possible, I wonder, that Lindsay has read Hayden’s poem?  There’s beautiful repetition in both works at critical moments.  Lindsay’s “each foot, each gorgeous foot,” and Hayden’s “What did I know, what did I know”  Or are the repetitions just the coincidence of creativity in each?  It is impossible for me to say.  I am moved, however, in both poems, by the willingness of men to do what is necessary, loving, and right, even in hard circumstances; and by the poet’s ability to show us, as Hayden does, not just one figure, but two; and Lindsay, not just two figures, but three, as the daughter reflects upon both her beautiful mother and her father’s gracious service.
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