My Papa’s Waltz

By 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.

 

 

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