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. 

Theodore Roethke
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