Theodore Roethke
My Papa's Waltz (c. 1948)


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.

7. countenance: expression on the face.