Born Asa Bundey Sheffey, Robert Hayden spent his childhood in a Detroit ghetto nicknamed 'Paradise Valley,' shuffled between his parents home and that of a foster family living next door. Childhood events would result in times of depression he would call 'my dark nights of the soul'. A nearsighted boy, he was often ostracised by his peers and was excluded from many physical pursuits. Reading -however- occupied a great deal of his time.
Hayden finished high school in 1932 and through a scholarship attended Detroit City College. Post graduation, he worked for the Federal Writer's Project, researching black history and folk culture. In 1941, he enrolled in a master's English ... more »
Click here to add this poet to your My Favorite Poets.
Robert Hayden Poems
Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early And put his clothes on in the blueback cold, then with cracked hands that ached from labor in the weekday weather made
The old woman across the way is whipping the boy again and shouting to the neighborhood her goodness and his wrongs.
I Jesús, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:
Steel doors – guillotine gates – of the doorless house closed massively. We were locked in with loss.
Runs falls rises stumbles on from darkness into darkness and the darkness thicketed with shapes of terror and the hunters pursuing and the hounds pursuing and the night cold and the night long and the river
El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz (Malcolm X)
O masks and metamorphoses of Ahab, Native Son I
No longer throne of a goddess to whom we pray, no longer the bubble house of childhood's tumbling Mother Goose man,
When it is finally ours, this freedom, this liberty, this beautiful and terrible thing, needful to man as air, usable as earth; when it belongs at last to all, when it is truly instinct, brain matter, diastole, systole,
Today as the news from Selma and Saigon poisons the air like fallout, I come again to see the serene, great picture that I love.
Her sleeping head with its great gelid mass of serpents torpidly astir burned into the mirroring shield-- a scathing image dire
(And I, I am no longer of that world) Naked, he lies in the blinded room chainsmoking, cradled by drugs, by jazz
O Daedalus, Fly Away Home
For Maia and Julie) Drifting night in the Georgia pines, coonskin drum and jubilee banjo.
I He dines alone surrounded by reflections of himself. Then after sleep and benzedrine descends the Cinquecento stair his magic
The Ballad Of Nat Turner
Then fled, O brethren, the wicked juba and wandered wandered far from curfew joys in the Dismal’s night. Fool of St. Elmo’s fire
(4 April 1928 - 28 May 2014)
(March 26, 1874 – January 29, 1963)
(10 December 1830 – 15 May 1886)
(26 April 1564 - 23 April 1616)
(12 July 1904 – 23 September 1973)
Edgar Allan Poe
(19 January 1809 - 7 October 1849)
(1 February 1902 – 22 May 1967)
(31 May 1819 - 26 March 1892)
(31 October 1795 – 23 February 1821)
Those Winter Sundays
Sundays too my father got up early
And put his clothes on in the blueback 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?