My Papa's Waltz
a poem by Theodore Roethke
performed by Sherman Alexie
If you're not already hearing sound, then click the Quicktime player above or the SoundCloud player below, depending on which one you can see, to hear the recording. If you can see both players then I've done something goofy. But both will work. Use the one you prefer.
This is one of my favorite poems-perhaps my favorite poem. Its nursery rhyme sound contrasts sharply with the serious tone. The threat of violence-knuckles and buckles and scraped ears and hard dirt hards-is ever present. I've heard a few critics remark that the poem is meant to convey love. They're wrong. It's about love and fear. This poem should be the National Anthem for Children of Alcoholics.