RAP: Sunday Morning Coming Down

that deep voice—unlike any–tells
life’s hard luck poetry to us through
the car speakers. I close my eyes and
let sun pass over and through me as we
drive through shadow and dappled
country road. the trees sway too. we
really believe he meets Sunday morning
with a beer for breakfast and one for
dessert and we wonder at the impossibility
of it. but now I remember my father,
eyes glazed over, leaning on the arm
of his best friend, singing those lines
with gusty passion. and when he puts
on his “cleanest dirty shirt”, we titter
at the way the words butt up against
each other, like our parents in the front—
mom in her clean and dad with the
dirty. but even four kids in the
backseat of a station wagon know
where he should be on Sunday
morning. the hardness of the
sidewalk and the distance of the
church bell quiets our hungry
mouths. today, I feel it. I couldn’t
know then. my child-eyes were
too wide for the unseen. but now,
I know. I know the lonely of
Sunday morning coming down.

I wrote this poem for Glynn Young’s Random Acts of Poetry prompt: What Poem Do You Come From? …select a poem you first read in high school or college that had an impact on you, that you remember or that you enjoyed, and write a poem about it. This one is a memory from a little earlier in my childhood, but I think it fits.

There was no Shakespeare at our house. No Dickenson, Yeats, or Browning. Not even Mother Goose. Our poetry came through the 8-track–what played on the radio when we drove to visit the relatives. Flatt and Scruggs, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings. These were the poets of my youth. But the Man in Black was in a class all by himself. This particular song was so unusual in its contemplative nature–it captured us. Written by Kris Kristofferson and released in 1970, it made even a young girl melancholy.

Have a listen.


  1. says

    Yes, it does “fit”.

    Your culminating lines — “I know the lonely of / Sunday morning coming down.” — are beautiful. My throat catches just reading them.

  2. says

    Familiar tunes for sure! Love your poem! So happy you stopped by today my blog today. It was such an honor to share your story. It was a timely tale for me … powerful to minister.

    Love you, friend!

  3. says


    And remembering.

    And shivering again, to know I had a sister I didn’t know I had… off on another country road… and that someday we would meet and share words that make it all just the tiniest, tiniest bit better in the saying.

  4. says

    I remember mocking my father and his Johnny Cash records. I’m so ashamed. It is a humbling thing to learn to embrace something I once disdained and to have my eyes opened to what a good man my daddy was.

  5. says

    Oh Laura, I think Cash and Kristoferson were put into my baby bottle, along with the canned formula. How’s that for a mix? Milk powder and bits of vinyl.

    My mom would crank the stereo with one or the other of those crooners every weekend morning to get us out of bed. Then I learned to make fuzzy navels for breakfast to go with the pancakes. It is no wonder I was draining their bottles and replacing it with water as soon as I could reach the liquor cupboard above the fridge.

    There is always such pain in those deep, scratchy voices.

    When I moved out, I took the vinyl with me. I still have it. Even though some of it harkens to great pain, there was still love, even if sometimes it tasted like peach schnapps.


  6. says

    You write beautifully, Laura. And I sense your sad serenity from this piece of work. Sunday’s had such a melancholy feeling in our house also. My sister and I would whisper and tip-toe around our curtain-drawed dark apartment sometimes until noon or 1pm on Sundays when our mother would finally come to after having worked until the late hours of Saturday into Sunday. We knew where we should all be and wanted to be most of the time. Then around 5pm or 6pm we would all crowd ourselves and the eight to ten large garbage bags full of dirty laundry into one of those over-sized yellow taxi cabs like the ones you see on an old New York movie and go to the laundrymat where the noise of all the washers humming in synchronicity and the heat from the dryers would disinfect our most plaguing thoughts I suppose. Sunday Morning Coming Down is one of my favorite songs. These songs were our sermons and taught us so much.

  7. says

    Hi Laura! This post took me back, way back! I was also raised on the Man in Black and the rest of the artists you mention. Thanks for the reminder that there was poetry in them thar’ hills.

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