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7 Shel Silverstein poems that were definitely meant for adults

Many of us fondly remember Shel Silverstein as the voice of our childhoods. We were lulled by the amiable content of collections like Where the Sidewalk Ends, A Light in the Attic and The Giving Tree. Only as an adult did I realize Silverstein was one wacky guy.

In celebration of the late author’s birthday, we’ve rounded up some of the not-so-child-friendly poems he managed to sneak into his most popular poetry collections. It makes sense. Disney does the same thing when they toss in quick jokes no child will get, because let’s face it: The parents have to watch the movies, too.

Well, parents had to read Shel Silverstein, probably gobs of times, to rambunctious kiddies at bedtime. Thanks to this genius man, we adults can re-read the books of our youth… and find some surprisingly messed-up stuff.

Where the Sidewalk Ends

Photo credit: Amazon


Inside everybody’s nose
There lives a sharp-toothed snail.
So if you stick your finger in,
He may bite off your nail.
Stick it farther up inside,
And he may bite your ring off.
Stick it all the way, and he
May bite the whole darn thing off.

Our thoughts: Definitely deters kids from nose-picking!

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2. “FRED?”

From out of the cold Caribbean
Into the Desert Libyan
There crawled a strange amphibian,
And we sall call him “Fred”!
You say you want to call him “Ted”?
But I want to call him “Fred”!
You like “Maurice” instead?
Or “Barnaby” or “Red”?
Or “Lucifer” or “Ned”?
Well, anyway, he’s dead.

Our thoughts: Here’s one way to teach a kid about death.


Someone ate the baby.
It’s rather sad to say.
Someone ate the baby
So she won’t be out to play.
We’ll never hear her whiney cry
Or have to feel if she is dry.
We’ll never hear her asking “Why?”
Someone ate the baby.

Our thoughts: OK, so I laughed at this one, but really, Shel? Really?


Have you been to the land of happy,
Where everyone’s happy all day,
Where they joke and they sing
Of the happiest things,
And everything’s jolly and gay?
There’s no one unhappy in Happy
There’s laughter and smiles galore.
I have been to The Land of Happy-
What a bore.

Our thoughts: Too true; very Stepford community.

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5. “IT’S HOT”

It’s hot!
I’ve tried with ’lectric fans,
And pools and ice cream cones.
I think I’ll take my skin off
And sit around in my bones.
It’s still hot!

Our thoughts: Well, that’s one way to cool down.

A Light in the Attic

Photo credit: Amazon


This evening I unzipped my skin
And carefully unscrewed my head,
Exactly as I always do
When I prepare myself for bed.
And while I slept a coo-coo came
As naked as could be
And put on the skin
And screwed on the head
That once belonged to me.
Now wearing my feet
He runs through the street
In a most disgraceful way.
Doin’ things and sayin’ things
I’d never do or say,
Ticklin’ the children
And kickin’ the men
And Dancin’ the ladies away.
So if he makes your bright eyes cry
Or makes your poor head spin,
That scoundrel you see
Is not really me
He’s the coo-coo
Who’s wearing my skin.

Our thoughts: This is something out of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark.

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There was a girl named Abigail
Who was taking a drive
Through the country
With her parents
When she spied a beautiful sad-eyed
Grey and white pony.
And next to it was a sign
That said, FOR SALE—CHEAP.
“Oh,” said Abigail,
“May I have that pony?
May I please?”
And her parents said,
“No you may not.”
And Abigail said,
“But I MUST have that pony.”
And her parents said,
“Well, you can have a nice butter pecan
Ice cream cone when we get home.”
And Abigail said,
“I don’t want a butter pecan
Ice cream cone,
And her parents said,
“Be quiet and stop nagging—
You’re not getting that pony.”
And Abigail began to cry and said,
“If I don’t get that pony I’ll die.”
And her parents said, “You won’t die.
No child ever died yet from not getting a pony.”
And Abigail felt so bad
That when she got home she went to bed,
And she couldn’t eat,
And she couldn’t sleep,
And her heart was broken,
And she DID die—
All because of a pony
That her parents wouldn’t buy.

Our thoughts: Well, that’s one way to get back at your parents.

More reading

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Why do I love thee? 10 Poems from Zach Thecatt

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