Who Else? Roethke


You may know I work with elderly people at a larger assisted living facility.  There is so much knowledge there among the residents!  I have met 2 women, one in her 80’s, the other in her 90’s who were clinical psychologists.  Another woman is a politician.  There are quite a few teachers and principals.  There are also several librarians.

There’s a former US Marshall, and 2 of our residents (that I know of) have published their autobiographies.  Nothing is greater than plumbing the brains of these wise sages.

One of them, a former librarian, manages our library.  A month or so ago, I spotted a book-old, but in perfect condition.  It was Roethke: collected poems.  I thought, surely, there are not many people here who would be interested in this book.  It was sitting on a table with other new additions, which are always donations.  I was very curious who donated it!

I sort of forgot about it until I was in the library a week or 2 later.  The librarian just happened to be there.  I couldn’t even remember what book had attracted my attention, but I mentioned to her I had seen one that looked very interesting.  I couldn’t find it on the shelf.  Later I saw the book in a pile in a corner.  I took it and went to the librarian’s room and asked her if she was keeping the book.

We had a wonderful conversation.  There is limited space in our library, and the librarian thought she wasn’t going to keep this treasure, and gave it to me!  We also talked about her church, Bon Air Christian.  She has 3 paintings of this lovely church in her apartment/condo.  I’ve wanted to go back to church, and I like Disciples of Christ.  They are not as conservative as a lot of other churches.  She was such a wonderful steward of her church, it made me want to visit.  I pass it on my way to work, and it’s quite close to my house.

Plus, my friend’s grandfather, A. Dale Fiers, was very active in this faith.  He was one of the kindest, wisest people I ever met in my life.  When we were little “Grandpa & Grandma Fiers” used to make cassette tapes and play music and talk on them to my friend.  They were incredible.  So warm and kind.  Once we visited them in FL and had the best time.  We were silly teenagers at the time, and Grandma Fiers indulged us in our silliness.  I’ll have to write it all down so I don’t forget.  It was, after all, over 30 years ago!

Back to Roethke.  He was tortured in many ways, but his writing was, I don’t even know how to describe it.  He lost his father when he was 15, and I will leave you with a poem he wrote.  It is called ‘My Papa’s Waltz’.  For an analysis of this poem, you can click here.

My Papa’s Waltz

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.

You can listen to a lovely reading of this poem here.  And there we are.  Here is a pic of Roethke.  I got it from Wikipedia.  Poor man.

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