My Papa's Waltz

My Papa's Waltz, by Theodore Roethke

My Papa’s Waltz


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.

I love this poem because not only does it show the love and blind devotion of a child for his father, but it is also a great discussion piece on the power of perspective (especially when compared to Hayden's Those Winter Days) . The father, although drunk and perhaps reckless, loves his son. Yet, the frustrated mother has every reason to be. You can almost hear her sigh and murmur in the kitchen while cleaning up the pots and pans.

The father is flawed, but not fully.

The son is ignorant, but not completely.

And the wife is justified, but not entirely.

What a great poem.