Teaching Poems: Those Winter Sundays SMILE poem analysis
S - Structure
M - Meaning
I - Imagery
L - Language
E - Effect
I'm sorry, Dad. I love you.
This three-stanza, free verse poem is narrated by an adult son remembering his father’s care during his childhood. He begins by describing the painful physical labor his father performed in the cold each morning. The second stanza contrasts the son’s more relaxed morning with his father’s selfless chores. In the last stanza, the speaker laments his youthful inability to recognize and reciprocate his father’s acts of love.
Although he was not a warm man, the speaker's father showed love daily through small, unappreciated acts. As he recalls his past, the now-adult speaker feels a mixture of gratitude and guilt. The poem reminds readers of the sacrifices parents make for their children and of the often silent and invisible nature of love.
The dominant images in the poem are of cold and heat. The speaker's childhood home is cold, and his relationship with his father seems stiff, yet each day his father sacrifices his own comfort to build a fire and warm the house. The fire and its warmth are representations of the father's love.
The cold is emphasized through diction and sound devices. The "blueblack cold" created "cracked hands that ached" along with sounds of "splintering" and "breaking" in the house. Alliteration with the letters "b" and "c" highlight the change of breaking, chattering, and shivering. This brutal language makes the father's sacrifice seem greater.
The speaker’s nostalgic tone evokes a sense of regret and sadness. Readers may share this sorrow and be moved to appreciate the small acts of love their family members perform.