Tag Archives: Poetry

Special Books Banned for Special Reasons, 4

Banned Book of the Day: Thursday, September 30th

Shel Silverstein was one of the greatest poets this country has produced. (Have you read The Missing Piece?) They tried to ban this book quite often and in quite a lot of places when it came out. Eventually they succeeded at some elementary schools, in the mid-’80’s.


If You Have to Dry the Dishes, by Shel Silverstein

If you have to dry the dishes
(Such an awful boring chore)
If you have to dry the dishes
(‘Stead of going to the store)
If you have to dry the dishes
And you drop one on the floor
Maybe they won’t let you
Dry the dishes anymore.

Also, a funny poem about a girl who dies because she doesn’t get a pony, which some parents definitely did not find funny. Because they feared their children would threaten to kill themselves if their requests for ponies were denied? Or because they feared their children would grow to believe that they’d die without ponies?

Also, obviously, the poem above encourages dish-breaking. And that’s definitely not a good thing.

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“Across a Great Wilderness without You”

Across a Great Wilderness without You

The deer come out in the evening.
God bless them for not judging me,
I’m drunk. I stand on the porch in my bathrobe
and make strange noises at them—
if language can be a kind of crying.
The tin cans scattered in the meadow glow,
each bullet hole suffused with moon,
like the platinum thread beyond them
where the river runs the length of the valley.
That’s where the fish are.
I’ll scoop them from the pockets of graveled
stone beneath the bank, their bodies
desperately alive when I hold them in my hands,
the way prayers become more hopeless
when uttered aloud.
The phone’s disconnected.
Just as well, I’ve got nothing to tell you:
I won’t go inside where the bats dip and swarm
over my bed. It’s the sound of them
shouldering against each other that terrifies me,
as if it might hurt to brush across another being’s
living flesh.
But I carry a gun now. I’ve cut down
a tree. You wouldn’t recognize me in town—
my hands lost in my pockets, two disabused tools
I’ve retired from their life of touching you.


When I first read this poem, having never heard of the poet, the words felt like they were coming out of a man. That may be the point.

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