Happy Father’s Day! “My Papa’s Waltz” by Theodore Roethke

Theodore_RoethkeHere is a poem that came to mind this morning by a great 20th Century American poet, Theodore Roethke.  His father was a horticulturist, maintained several greenhouses and plant nurseries.  Roethke said once that the greenhouse was for him a  universal symbol and image of life and the world.

In this poem, he recalls being danced off to bed as a young boy by his father, still covered with dirt and potting soil from his long hours that day at work in his greenhouses.

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 (1908-1963)

http://www.poemhunter.com/theodore-roethke/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Roethke

About Margaret Jean Langstaff

A lifelong critical reader with literary tastes, a novelist, short story writer, essayist, book critic, and professional book editor for many years. A consultant to publishers and authors, providing manuscript critiques and a full range of editorial services. A friend and supporter of all other readers and writers. A collector of signed modern first editions. Animal lover and tree hugger.
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