The Current Motions
William Stafford’s poem “Ask Me” and Theodore Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” are two literary poems that use characteristics of everyday things to identify the emotion of the characters. Stafford’s piece expresses his life through the form of a river, while Roethke explains the relationship between a father and a son through a dance. The reader can depict how both authors use the movements of a river and a dance to express their inner-feelings. In Stafford’s poem, the river currents are understood to express life’s intermediate changes between highs and lows, through the past, present, and future. Roethke describes the Waltz between ...view middle of the document...
In the poem “My Papa’s Waltz” the first stanza begins with, “The whiskey on your breath could make a small boy dizzy; but I hung on like death: Such waltzing was not easy.” Here the reader can imagine a drunken man with his young son attempting to Waltz together, he hangs on like death, meaning instead of gliding gracefully, as a real Waltz should appear, and the image depicts a boy being dragged in a quick and rough manner.
The imagery that is picked up on in both poems is also considered the symbolism within each poem. The concepts of constant movement are shown in both poems as symbolism, yet have two different meanings. In “Ask Me” the river is a symbolism for the narrator’s life. When he refers to the river being ice, he is referring to his life, life in a still and calm state. When his life is in this calm state, then he can have time to think about his past. Stafford writes “Others have come in their slow way into my thought, and some have tried to help or to hurt—ask me what difference their strongest love or hate has made.” Here the reader can see that there are certain elements that affect his life, just as there are elements that influence the conditions of a river current. More importantly the reader can recognize a sense of regret from his past, which sets the tone to disappointment. In the last stanza he writes “…turn and look at the silent river and wait. We know the current is there, hidden; and there are comings and goings from miles away…” In this instance his life is signified by the river again because as the river is ice at that moment in time, meaning his life is running calmly, his mistakes from the past are still beneath the surface. This is when the reader can see the complexity of emotions because he is coming to realization that his past will remain a part of his past and cannot be changed, but instead be a part of who he is. Stafford ends the poem with “What the river says, that is what I say.” The meaning behind his last phrase reveals his choice to remain silent, like the iced river and move changing the tone of the poem to acceptance. In Roethke’s “My Papa’s Waltz” the Waltz is a symbol for the relationship the boy has with his father. As the Waltz is typically a graceful and soft dance, the story depicts his fathers Waltz as the opposite. Roethke writes “The hand that held my wrist was...