October 3, 2007

Hump Day Poetry: Shel Silverstein

Posted in Censorship, Poetry at 7:01 pm by The Lizard Queen

In honor of Banned Books Week (September 29-October 6), I thought I’d post a couple of poems by Shel Silverstein, whose collection A Light in the Attic is on the ALA’s list of the 100 most frequently challenged books from 1990-2000.

This first one is a favorite of mine, because it’s very much me — and was even more so when I was a child:


Last night, while I lay thinking here,
some Whatifs crawled inside my ear
and pranced and partied all night long
and sang their same old Whatif song:
Whatif I’m dumb in school?
Whatif they’ve closed the swimming pool?
Whatif I get beat up?
Whatif there’s poison in my cup?
Whatif I start to cry?
Whatif I get sick and die?
Whatif I flunk that test?
Whatif green hair grows on my chest?
Whatif nobody likes me?
Whatif a bolt of lightning strikes me?
Whatif I don’t grow taller?
Whatif my head starts getting smaller?
Whatif the fish won’t bite?
Whatif the wind tears up my kite?
Whatif they start a war?
Whatif my parents get divorced?
Whatif the bus is late?
Whatif my teeth don’t grow in straight?
Whatif I tear my pants?
Whatif I never learn to dance?
Everything seems well, and then
the nighttime Whatifs strike again!

—Shel Silverstein, 1981

This next one is another favorite. When I was growing up I had a cassette of Shel Silverstein himself reading some of the poems from A Light in the Attic, including the two I’m posting today. I can still hear his voice, his particular intonation, when I read them to myself. Wonderful stuff.

Bear in There

There’s a Polar Bear
In our Frigidaire–
He likes it ’cause it’s cold in there.
With his seat in the meat
And his face in the fish
And his big hairy paws
In the buttery dish,
He’s nibbling the noodles,
He’s munching the rice,
He’s slurping the soda,
He’s licking the ice.
And he lets out a roar
If you open the door.
And it gives me a scare
To know he’s in there–
That Polary Bear
In our Fridgitydaire.

—Shel Silverstein, 1981


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