A Boy Named Sue Poem by Shel Silverstein

A Boy Named Sue

Rating: 3.4

Well, my daddy left home when I was three,
and he didn't leave much to Ma and me,
just this old guitar and a bottle of booze.
Now I don't blame him because he run and hid,
but the meanest thing that he ever did was
before he left he went and named me Sue.

Well, he must have thought it was quite a joke,
and it got lots of laughs from a lot of folks,
it seems I had to fight my whole life through.
Some gal would giggle and I'd get red
and some guy would laugh and I'd bust his head,
I tell you, life ain't easy for a boy named Sue.

Well, I grew up quick and I grew up mean.
My fist got hard and my wits got keen.
Roamed from town to town to hide my shame,
but I made me a vow to the moon and the stars,
I'd search the honky tonks and bars and kill
that man that gave me that awful name.

But it was Gatlinburg in mid July and I had
just hit town and my throat was dry.
I'd thought i'd stop and have myself a brew.
At an old saloon in a street of mud
and at a table dealing stud sat the dirty,
mangy dog that named me Sue.

Well, I knew that snake was my own sweet dad
from a worn-out picture that my mother had
and I knew the scar on his cheek and his evil eye.
He was big and bent and gray and old
and I looked at him and my blood ran cold,
and I said, 'My name is Sue. How do you do?
Now you're gonna die.' Yeah, that's what I told him.

Well, I hit him right between the eyes and he went down
but to my surprise he came up with a knife
and cut off a piece of my ear. But I busted a chair
right across his teeth. And we crashed through
the wall and into the street kicking and a-gouging
in the mud and the blood and the beer.

I tell you I've fought tougher men but I really can't remember when.
He kicked like a mule and bit like a crocodile.
I heard him laughin' and then I heard him cussin',
he went for his gun and I pulled mine first.
He stood there looking at me and I saw him smile.

And he said, 'Son, this world is rough and if
a man's gonna make it, he's gotta be tough
and I knew I wouldn't be there to help you along.
So I gave you that name and I said 'Goodbye'.
I knew you'd have to get tough or die. And it's
that name that helped to make you strong.'

Yeah, he said, 'Now you have just fought one
helluva fight, and I know you hate me and you've
got the right to kill me now and I wouldn't blame you
if you do. But you ought to thank me
before I die for the gravel in your guts and the spit
in your eye because I'm the guy that named you Sue.'
Yeah, what could I do? What could I do?

I got all choked up and I threw down my gun,
called him pa and he called me a son,
and I came away with a different point of view
and I think about him now and then.
Every time I tried, every time I win and if I
ever have a son I think I am gonna name him
Bill or George - anything but Sue.

Calico Jack 19 April 2012

Love the poem, love the Cash song. Lighthearted, which is a nice change from all the morbid poetry around, methinks.

42 17 Reply
Kalysta Barrett 30 January 2012

johnny cash sings this also, with a few word different

39 18 Reply
Gogo Amin 11 May 2013

well sue m&m singer have a unique song too for barring mother from so so so so long, as if he was acting a part of play as you do... life goes on huh! !

10 40 Reply
Frank James Ryan Jr...fjr 16 August 2015

Too many people believed that Cash wrote this Epic lyrical poem....Cash was certainly the right voice choice to give full justice to this SIL-ver piece lined in Solid Gold...but no-one, not Cash, Graham Nash, the Rat Pack nor Bacharach could spin words with Silverstein! ~FjR~

20 17 Reply
Darlan M Cunha 14 January 2016

I remember. Amazing poet. Their efforts convinced me that this poem is not dubious, nebulous, blasphemous. I remember certain songs: A horse with no name // Father and son // Satanic majesties...

20 12 Reply
Dr Dillip K Swain 16 January 2024

A wonderful poem... loved it

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Bharati Nayak 16 January 2024

The anger and rage reflected against the father because he was a drunkard and left nothing worthwhile for the child other than an unflattering name.

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Bharati Nayak 16 January 2024

This poem highlights the significance of 'name'. The name stays with a person from birth to death. Sometimes a child may become a of jokes because of his unflattering name.He may be bullied and will develop low self esteem.

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Bharati Nayak 16 January 2024

There are many angles to this poem.I have read somewhere that Shel Silverstein wrote this poem for a judge whose middle name was Sue. It was made into a song and won Grammy award.

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Tania McGregor 31 October 2023

Marvellous reflection of this man's insight to life

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