Sunday, August 30, 2009

A POEM FOR HILL COUNTRY: "Crowded Tub" by Shel Silverstein

posted by Terry Thornton

To launch this new series of poetry at HC2, I'm using a poem memorized by accident back in the 1980s when I read it to my son. The lines of poetry have stayed with me since that one reading --- and although I forget sometimes the author's name and certainly forget the name of the book from which I read the lines, I can't forget the poem. I think you would agree with me that good poetry should be memorable and I hope this one "sticks" in your mind as is has in mine.

Remember those lazy hazy hot days from your childhood when a number three galvanized metal wash tub would be filled with water and placed outside in the sun? Remember how all day long you watched the clock waiting until the time was just right for you to strip off and get to play in that solar-heated water in the shade of the late afternoon before the bugs of the evening took flight to bite? Remember that every kid in the household all jumped into the tub at about the same time?

Were there too many kids in your tub?

If you can remember those tubs of water and kids, the short poem by the late American poet and song-writer Shel Silverstein (1930 - 1999) will be a special treat for you. And even if you didn't have the grand experience of sitting outside in a warmed tub of water knowing that all of the day's dirt would soak off before bedtime and that this outside a la natural fun was really your bath of the day, then this poem is also just for you.

Below is Silverstein's grand little poem. Enjoy. The lines of this small jewel are like those of a song which stick in your mind --- once you hear them, you'll remember them forever. Perhaps that is the hallmark of excellent writing --- being memorable.


Shel Silverstein

(from A LIGHT IN THE ATTIC, 1981, HarperCollins, page 86)

There's too many kids in this tub
There's too many elbows to scrub
I just washed a behind that I'm sure wasn't mine
There's too many kids in this tub.

I strongly recommend you obtain a copies of Silverstein's books, A Light in the Attic especially, and read his poems for children. They are a delight --- and his genius comes shining through at the most unexpected times and places. Silverstein's books are available through your favorite bookstore or online book provider.

I also strongly recommend that if you don't already know Silverstein you click here to read the article about him at Wikipedia --- read it carefully and you will be amazed at how much of his work you've heard or read about without knowing the author. From popular songs (A Boy Named Sue, 25 Minutes to Go, and One's On the Way, hits for Johnny Cash and Loretta Lynn) to music scores to poems and books for children, Shel Silverstein and his words continue to influence and make us all think, feel good about ourselves, and become better for the exposure.

Photograph, Crowded Tub of Thornton Grandchildren, Rinnie, Tennessee, by Terry Thornton. 1994.

1 comment:

Henk van Kampen said...

Where the Sidewalk Ends has been in my library for ten years now - I bought it just after Silverstein died. I never heard of him before, but I realized from an obituary that I knew some of his work and that I should read more. And not just read: I also enjoy his drawings.

I'll look for A Light in the Attic next time I visit a used books store.

BTW, I like your tub. My grandparents had one like that when I was a child. I don't know why they had it (they did not use it as a bath tub), but on hot summer days they filled it with water and let us have fun with it.