I loved reading Shel Silverstein‘s poems as a kid. I found them funny, thoughtful, and weird. As an educator and adult, my love for Silverstein hasn’t waned even though my favorite poems have changed. Below you’ll find 15 of my favorite Shel Silverstein poems. I’ve always preferred the short poems.
1. Listen to the MUSTN’TS (Where the Sidewalk Ends)
Listen to the MUSTN’TS, child,
Listen to the DON’TS
Listen to the SHOULDN’TS
The IMPOSSIBLES, the WON’TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me—
Anything can happen, child,
ANYTHING can be.
2. Masks (Every Thing On It)
She had blue skin.
And so did he.
He kept it hid
And so did she.
They searched for blue
Their whole life through,
Then passed right by—
And never knew.
3. Hug O’ War (Where the Sidewalk Ends)
I will not play tug o’ war.
I’d rather play hug o’ war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.
4. Invention (Where the Sidewalk Ends)
I’ve done it, I’ve done it!
Guess what I’ve done!
Invented a light that plugs into the sun.
The sun is bright enough,
The bulb is strong enough,
But, oh, there’s only one thing wrong…
The cord ain’t long enough.
5. Underface (Where the Sidewalk Ends)
Underneath my outside face
There’s a face that none can see.
A little less smiley,
A little less sure,
But a whole lot more like me.
6. Forgotten Language (Where the Sidewalk Ends)
Once I spoke the language of the flowers,
Once I understood each word the caterpillar said,
Once I smiled in secret at the gossip of the starlings,
And shared a conversation with the housefly in my bed.
Once I heard and answered all the questions of the crickets,
And joined the crying of each falling dying flake of snow,
Once I spoke the language of the flowers.
How did it go?
How did it go?
7. The Bridge (A Light in the Attic)
This bridge will only take you halfway there
To those mysterious lands you long to see:
Through gypsy camps and swirling Arab fairs
And moonlit woods where unicorns run free.
So come and walk awhile with me and share
The twisting trails and wondrous worlds I’ve known.
But this bridge will only take you halfway there-
The last few steps you’ll have to take alone.
8. Rain (Where the Sidewalk Ends)
I opened my eyes
And looked up at the rain,
And it dripped in my head
And flowed into my brain,
And all that I hear as I lie in my bed
Is the slishity-slosh of the rain in my head.
I step very softly,
I walk very slow,
I can’t do a handstand–
I might overflow,
So pardon the wild crazy thing I just said–
I’m just not the same since there’s rain in my head.
9. Losing Pieces (Every Thing On It)
Talked my head off
Worked my tail off
Cried my eyes out
Walked my feet off
Sang my heart out
So you see,
There’s really not much left of me.
10. Tell Me (Falling Up)
Tell me I’m clever,
Tell me I’m kind,
Tell me I’m talented,
Tell me I’m cute,
Tell me I’m sensitive,
Graceful and wise,
Tell me I’m perfect-
But tell me the truth.
11. Don’t Change On My Account (Every Thing On It)
If you’re sloppy, that’s just fine.
If you’re moody, I won’t mind.
If you’re fat, that’s fine with me.
If you’re skinny, let it be.
If you’re bossy, that’s alright.
If you’re nasty, I won’t fight.
If you’re rough, well that’s just you.
If you’re mean, that’s alright too.
Whatever you are is all okay.
I don’t like you anyway.
12. Spider (Every Thing On It)
A spider lives inside my head
Who weaves a strange and wondrous web
Of silken threads and silver strings
To catch all sorts of flying things,
Like crumbs of thoughts and bits of smiles
And specks of dried-up tears
And dust of dreams that catch and cling
For years and years and years…
13. Hinges (A Light in the Attic)
If we had hinges on our heads
There wouldn’t be no sin
‘Cause we could take the bad stuff out
And leave the good stuff in.
14. Don’t Tell Me (Where the Sidewalk Ends)
Please don’t tell me I should hug,
Don’t tell me I should care
Don’t tell me just how grand I’d feel
If I just learned to share.
Don’t say, “it’s all right to cry,”
“Be kind,” “be fair,” “be true.”
Just let me see YOU do it,
Then I just might do it too.
15. Happy Ending? (Every Thing On It)
There are no happy endings.
Endings are the saddest part,
So just give me a happy middle
And a very happy start.
Bonus: Man-Eating Plant (Every Thing On It)
What are your favorite Shel Silverstein poems?