My Papa's Waltz by Theodore Roethke

Summary: My Papa's Waltz by Theodore Roethke is a poem of a small boy's point of view as he struggles with a waltz-like moment during aggression with his father as his mother can only watch.

Verse 1:

  • There was whiskey on his father's breath that made the son dizzy
  • Although he was affected by the father's drunkenly stupor, he continued his "waltzing" with his father

Verse 2:

  • The dance between the son and the father was so intense that they made a mess of the pans in the kitchen
  • The son's mother could only look on with a frown on her face

Verse 3:

  • As his father held his wrist, the son took note of the knuckle that was used to hit him
  • When the father stumbled, the son would have his right ear hurt from his father's buckle

Verse 4:

  • As they "waltzed" and "danced" in time, the father would hit his son on the head with his open hand
  • The son would cling to his father's shirt as the son was being put to bed

Other Notes:

  • The poem seems to talk about a routine as if this happens often to the son
  • The mother is tired of "waltzing" with the father in the way that her son now waltzes with the father so she stays to the side and watches with a frown
  • The father can only reveal his true feelings through hurtful physical interaction with his son in some kind of feeling of frustration
  • The son is revealing to the audience that it is not "easy" to be the grunt of his father's aggression but he endures it just the same; may be to save his mother from this fate

© 2009 copyright My Papa's Waltz | Theodore Roethke