Image by University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections, MPH328

My Papa's Waltz

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.


'My Papa's Waltz', copyright 1942 by Heast Magazines, Inc. by Theodore Roethke from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Doubleday, 1966/ Faber, 1968), used by permission of the publisher, Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc. The recording was made in the 1950s at the YMHA Poetry Center, New York, NY, and is used by permission of the Library of Congress, Washington DC, and is used with permission of the Library of Congress.

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