An intersection in New York. This particular intersection has a subway station (as the second line in the poem indicates).
This word has several meanings: the first refers to a type of cooking where something (like chicken or pork) is coated with breadcrumbs and is fried.
The second meaning is when something is bruised or injured through use.
The third meaning implies domestic abuse.
In the context of this poem, the second meaning, that the father’s knuckle is “battered” from work, makes the most sense, though depending on the interpretation, it’s possible that Roethke uses this word to imply that the father is abusive.
This phrase has two interpretations: the literal meaning is that the father is dancing and counting the steps of a waltz on the child’s head. It is possible, however, that the word “beat” is used metaphorically to imply physical abuse.
As in, increase in volume.
As in, the hand is coated in dirt, and the father’s palm is hard because he is a manual laborer.
A wrapping material like Saran Wrap.
Holding onto; the word “still” before “clinging” refers to the first stanza in which the speaker is “[holding] on like death”.