6* BP English Blog

“My Papa’s Waltz”: Reflection by Danielle

February 17, 2011 · 1 Comment · Poetry Reflections 2/18 (actual due date moved to 2/22)

The poem, “My Papa’s Waltz by Theodore Roethke,” I believe, is reflecting a back and forth issue. The words used throughout the poem come of to me as reflecting to this idea. The first stanza, “The whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy; but I hung on like death: such waltzing was not easy,” is describing a man with an alcoholic issue. The smell of the breath could make a small boy dizzy, showing that it was very heavy. Alcohol can make people act how they normally wouldn’t; sometimes this can lead to many physical issues. He says he hung on, showing pain. If you try to attach yourself to something that fights back in life, it creates many issues to further compensate. The second stanza, “We romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf; my mother’s countenance could not frown itself.” These lines describe how they danced, in my visualization like a back and forth dance trying to prove who is right, and the mother’s appearance to be very unhappy and it wasn’t going to change. I wonder how she may be feeling if they are fighting amongst one another. The third stanza, “The hand that held my wrist was battered on one knuckle; at every step you missed my right ear scraped a buckle.” When I first read the word buckle, the first thing that popped into my head was a belt buckle. I have personally, had bad memories with those. They were used as punishment for me, I wonder if it was referencing abuse. For example, for every time his father screwed up, he would take the beating and fault for it. The final stanza, “You beat time on my head with a palm caked hard by dirt, then waltzed me off to bed still clinging to your shirt.” When I read the still clinging to your shirt I pictured a boy pulling on his father’s shirt for support. Was he hurt bad enough that he couldn’t get on?

One Comment

  • Roxana

    Wow! Your reflection is so detailed. I never made the connection of the belt buckle being used as punishment for the boy. Maybe it was? Thanks for pointing that out.

    You also provide a point in the last lines about the boy being so hurt that he needed help getting into his bed.