ANALYSIS of model digital poem “My Papa's Waltz”

Model Digital Poem Analysis: “My Papa’s Waltz”
Stanza 1:
The whiskey on your breath
Could make a small boy dizzy;
But I hung on like death:
Such waltzing was not easy.
The poet here creates a childlike view of a drunken father. It pairs the simile of “death”
with the image of dancing. For this section I chose a rainbow-shaded distorted face. The
nose is swollen and the eyes uneven and the face itself is disembodied. It creates a
haunting effect. Still, the painting is not haunting—almost as if this were a benevolent
ghost of sorts. Similarly, the whiskey could be dizzying, but the boy clings to this figure
that is also his loving caretaker.
Stanza 2:
We romped until the pans
Slid from the kitchen shelf;
My mother’s countenance
Could not unfrown itself.
The poet portrays the sounds and movements of this drunken waltz. His kinesthetic and
auditory imagery are reflected in this portrait of the dancing man. The reddish-brownish
colors replace the rainbow effect of the first stanza. The brushstrokes are visible and
sloppy, adding to the effect of the imprecise movements of a man who tries to dance in an
inebriated state. The tone here is more distant, as we can see “mother” watching this
drunken dance from afar with disapproval.
Stanza 3:
The hand that held my wrist
Was battered on one knuckle;
At every step you missed
My right ear scraped a buckle.
This section focuses on the mild dangers that this dance poses for the narrator. The child
is being held by the wrists, his ears getting scraped on his careless father’s belt buckle.
Instead of an image of the child and father though, I used an image of the disapproving
mother witnessing this dance, which to her could seem destructive. Her view is clearly
less sympathetic than the narrator. It continues the reds and blues seen earlier to create a
cool, removed tone. She is not ready to interfere, but disturbed by what she witnesses.
Stanza 4:
You beat time on my head
With a palm caked hard by dirt,
Then waltzed me off to bed
Still clinging to your shirt.
This stanza creates a tonal shift—the father as loving to his son. The knuckles that have
been battered in the previous stanza are paired down with the image of palm “caked hard
by dirt”—dad isn’t just hard-living, he’s also hard-working apparently. The child “clings”
to his father—he is not afraid of him. This stark gray image of the folds of skin around
the knuckles is exaggerated and covered in shadow, reflected the way that memories can
fade and warp over time. The hands seem older, more vulnerable, in need of kindness,
susceptible to outside forces and the wearing down that comes with a hard life.