As you read it, avoid cliché reactions having to do with dysfunctional families, alcoholism, child abuse, and other newspaper topics. Such matters are real enough, but stock responses can block your perceptions. Instead, concentrate on the particulars.
Every image here deserves to be pondered and tasted to the full, for its emotional richness. The overall tone and feeling contains love and pain and humor and nostalgia all blended. This is a poem worth memorizing.
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.