No Dance I Want to Try...
"The hand that held my wrist/Was battered on one knuckle;/At every step you missed/My right ear scraped a buckle."
- "My Papa's Waltz" by Theodore Roethke
This waltz definitely portrays an abusive relationship to me. I chose to examine this quote because it contains several words the scream abuse, although such words can be seen throughout the entire, relatively short poem. The first stanza introduces the smell of whiskey, the sensation of being dizzy, and hanging on like death. It would be no surprise if the alcohol and abuse coincide here. and I suspect the dizziness is not from the smell of whiskey alone. The second stanza involves romping, which is not a term I would think to use to describe dancing, "until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf" Again, these words scream abuse. Mother, who is probably powerless to intervene since she is only mentioned once, is wearing a perpetual frown in this scene. The third stanza, which is the one I quoted above, involves a hand with a battered knuckle holding a wrist. What dancing partner would lead you by holding your wrist??? An abusive one! And finally, the belt buckle, and belts have a bad reputation as being weapons of beatings. The final stanza involves the father beating time on the boy's head and putting him to bed, still clinging. Although this poem tells of an abusive relationship, it also tells of a boy who loves his father; hence, the hanging on and clinging. Love is not supposed to hurt, but this love is all the poor boy knows, and so he calls his abuser "papa". Or perhaps the boy knew this since he recognized that "such waltzing was not easy" , but was hopeful that his father would change. What do you think???