Poetry Friday: Sleepy, Sleepy, Sleepy…

One terrible weekend when I was nine, I met a strange boy at the beach who walked up to me, said hello, and proceeded to make bad jokes. He was eleven, and today (a few years past eleven), he’s our first house guest since we moved to the UK.

Sometimes old friends are the ones who make you the most anxious. I am just shattered I’m so tired. I haven’t been sleeping — because I’ve been cleaning the house in my dreams. Stupid, no? But that’s the way my mind unhinges at times. And so, a bit of Shel Silverstein for me.

Whatif by Shel Silverstein

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 talle?
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!

The rest of the poetry pals are over at Kelly’s. Wishing y’all a blissfully peaceful completely unexceptional weekend of relaxation.

About the author

tanita s. davis is a writer and avid reader who prefers books to most things in the world, including people. That's ...pretty much it, she's very boring and she can't even tell jokes. She is, however, the author of nine books, including Serena Says, Partly Cloudy, Go Figure, Henri Weldon, and the Coretta Scott King honored Mare's War. Look for her new MG, The Science of Friendship in 1/2024 from Katherine Tegen Books.


  1. I love Shel Silverstein and I love this poem! I’m often plagued by the Whatifs.

    I can’t help hearing this in Silverstein’s voice–he had an amazing reading voice, and I used to have tapes of him reading Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic.

    In fact, in fifth grade we were required to memorize poems and recite them in front of the class every so often, and I know I did at least two of his–“Sick” and “Jimmy Jet and His TV Set.” I’m not sure the teacher appreciated it.

  2. “Whatif I never learn to dance?” A thing worth worrying about IMO. Sometimes I think worry is a playful rehearsal preparing me to deal with life and seek the important things. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

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