My Papa’s Waltz

By Theodore Roethke 1908–1963 Theodore Roethke
The whiskey on your breath   
Could make a small boy dizzy;   
But I hung on like death:   
Such waltzing was not easy.

We romped until the pans   
Slid from the kitchen shelf;   
My mother’s countenance   
Could not unfrown itself.

The hand that held my wrist   
Was battered on one knuckle;   
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.

You beat time on my head   
With a palm caked hard by dirt,   
Then waltzed me off to bed   
Still clinging to your shirt.

Theodore Roethke, “My Papa’s Waltz” from Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke. Copyright 1942 by Hearst Magazines, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc.

Source: The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (1961)

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Poet Theodore Roethke 1908–1963

POET’S REGION U.S., Northwestern

Subjects Family & Ancestors, Theater & Dance, Youth, Living, Relationships, Arts & Sciences

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza, Confessional