Friday, March 16, 2007

My Papa's Waltz

The poetry word for the day per Mona is DANCE. I have been looking for an excuse to give you one of my favorite poems, this is it. I did not write it, unfortunately. If i had been able to write this i think that my life would have taken a different path.

Please take the time to read it out loud, even if only to yourself. Any errors are mine and i apologize for them. I am working from memory here.

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

I studied Roethke when i was getting my first college degree. I felt a special connection to him all through high school and college. He taught at the University of Washington, where i completed my useless liberal arts degree. Long before i went there, but still. He drowned in the Boedel's swimming pool, out on Bainbridge Island. I visted the Bloedel Reserve last year and saw the swimming pool, which is now a zen garden and filled in with sand. I discomfitted our tour guide by asking if this indeed was THAT pool.

You will find no comfort here
In the kingdom of bang and blab.

-a tiny bit of one of Theodore Roethke's longer poems.

13 comments:

Toni said...

I've never heard that poem, but I like it! Will have to some research on that guy!

Thailand Gal said...

I always liked Roethke's poetry and it is one of very few poetry books I've ever purchased.:)


Peace,

~Chani

Mama P said...

I will stand as the literary dunce that I am by stating that I have never heard of this guy before. Or perhaps I have and all my post child bearing lit braincells have gone the way of the wild diaper genie. But that's a lovely poem - thank you for bringing it to my poetry starved mama brain.

luckyzmom said...

My husband received his BS from the U-dub in 1975. Go dogs.

Sally Forth said...

You could not have known that that is one of my favorite poems, but it is. And you DO need to read it aloud.

AC said...

I share in the useless liberal arts degree that has nevertheless brought me so much pleasure. Roethke is not well known to me but I do so love a new direction.

Mother of Invention said...

Being Canadian, and not having taken too many American Lit courses, I've never come across him. That is a neat full circle thing you did by going to see the Garden, a fitting tribute.

My arts degree wasn't totally useless and I think even if you went 1 year, it taught you general things and the experience of living with other people. It was a great place to socialize with many in one place who had a lot in common with you.
And I guess it was worth it for me to hang in 4 years because I met my husband in Jan. of the 4rth!!

patches said...

I envy poets. The express thoughts that I long to express, but succinctly and beautifully. Wonderful economy of language.

meno said...

toni, he is worth looking into.

chani, Same here. I couldn't find the book when i went to type this. Probably in the basement in a box.

mamap, don't you insult you! There are tons of famous poets that i don't know from Bob Dole.

luckyzmom, i graduated in '81. But i was on the 5 year plan!

sally, something about this one has always really touched me. I love to recite it out loud.

ac, i did learn a lot about life, but it wasn't so useful for finding a job.

MOI, I agree about the degree, that's just a facetious way we refer to it around here. My Em is headed in the same direction. I met the Mister at college to.

patches, me too. It looks so simple too. I always think "I could do that!" But, no, not so much.

Esereth said...

I remember studying that poem in college. My professor said that Roethke would never answer whether or not it was about child abuse or not, and that he purposely went back and made small changes to it over time to make it more ambivilent.

I'm tired of everything being about child abuse.

meno said...

esereth, there are certainly elements of violence in these words. I see it as a hard man giving the love he could, in the way he could.

QT said...

Love it and I have actually read it before! Tho I don't know that I would have remembered who wrote it.

Another U-Dub grad, another useless liberal arts degree - journalism, 1998.

Mona Buonanotte said...

Whoa...that poem...I have to read more of this guy!