Yesterday was one of those days between projects when it was hard to focus on any one thing. Definitely a “hummingbird brain” day. So I took to reading poetry, thinking that might help me to settle down.

And I found one of my favorites:

Those Winter Sundays

Robert Hayden

Sundays too my father got up early

and put on his clothes 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?

There is much that I love about this poem, but one thing especially struck me yesterday—the heartbreaking detail of the father, alone, polishing his son’s shoes on Sunday morning.

It made me wonder about other fictional characters who reveal themselves by taking care in doing the simplest of acts.


p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: .0001pt; line-height: normal;”>And the other side of finding fictional characters– inventing. Seems like it would be aninteresting exercise for those times when nothing seems to be there: write about a character doing a simple, humble act, but an act that reveals heart and motive, something like washing dishes, changing the oil in the car, re-glazing a window, combing the tangles out of a child’s hair, or the young man in Liza Ketchum’s story who bakes bread.