96th and Broadway

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.

Beat time

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.

Bob up

As in, increase in volume.


As in, belt buckle.

Belt buckles on a variety of belts.


A type of flowering plant. Also known as arctium. (It’s also known as 우엉, u-eong, in Korea and is used in a variety of dishes, including kimbap.)

Caked hard by dirt

As in, the hand is coated in dirt, and the father’s palm is hard because he is a manual laborer.


Holding onto; the word “still” before “clinging” refers to the first stanza in which the speaker is “[holding] on like death”.


Noun: a person’s face or the expression on a person’s face.

This woman’s countenance is cheerful.