The child talks about his father who got drunk. The first line shows us that the father is really that intoxicated. It is because when someone drinks a little liquor, it doesn't really affect the breath that much. But the father in the poem has already drunk too much. It is supported by the second line, “Could make a small boy dizzy.”
What plays a big impact on the first line is actually the whiskey. Drinking just a shot of it could make you a bit tipsy. it is a strong, distilled liquor made from grain. maybe the reason why the author used whiskey as the liquor drunk by the father, is that it is one of the most popular of alcoholic beverages.
The child's passivity is associated with death basically because a corpse doesn't have life anymore. A dead person is already passive, just like the child. He doesn't have the strength to retaliate.
Such waltzing was not easy. With this line, we could anticipate that something could be going on, aside from the father being drunk. it can be noticed that the author uses irony.
History says that waltz was once criticized and opposed to by moralists because of its closer hold and rapid turning movements. religious orders also regarded it as vulgar and sinful. An English magazine Belgravia also stated that waltz is a wicked dance.
Such notion about waltz might be the reason why Roethke decided to incorporate the said dance in his poem. The dance was used as the object of irony. It made readers picture out the metaphor involved. It is not actually used as vague, instead it adds up a sense of thrill among the readers.
The second stanza of the poem begins with the metaphorical description of what the father's drunkenness turned out to be. We romped until the pans slid from the kitchen shelf. That clearly showed the violence involved. One can not destroy anything around if he doesn't become so wild.
The line also showed the dominance of the father. The child and his mother did not look up to him, instead they fear him. Maybe they're thinking that they should just stay calm as possible. If they freak out, the man of their house could kill them. This is supported by the line, “My mother's countenance could not unfrown itself.”
The third stanza elaborates more on the physical abuse done by the father to his child. The hand that held my wrist was battered in one knuckle. At every step you missed my right ear scraped a buckle. these lines describe the harsh acts received by the child. By these lines, we could say that there is a child abuse happening. This could eventually traumatize the child at risk.
Just like the third stanza, the last one also talks about the physical violence. the harm done by the father includes hitting the child's head until they reached the bed room. Since I assumed that the child in this poem is a boy, it could be that the father still beats the child until it already hurts that much. Clinging to something when you're totally hurt is natural among many of us. for an instance, when you're tooth is being removed of course it will hurt a lot especially without anaesthesia. You tend to cling to something nearby or hold something tighter to release pain or tension. I could say that the child must be very by then since he clings to his father's shirt.
If my assumption is wrong, and the child is a girl, the last two lines might be of the sexual abuse part. The word bed connotes something sensual. It is undeniable that whenever we hear the word bed, we associate it with sex.
With the constant reading of this poem, I guess i can conclude that this poem is a commentary on child abuse. This is a poem that speaks for those abused children. It is a dramatic poem that helps us understand the situation of these children. It makes us feel the grief of those suffering abuse.