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 Heast Magazines, Inc.  Used by permission of Doubleday, an imprint of the Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved.

  • Source: The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (1961)

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