Shel Silverstein

(September 25, 1930 – May 10, 1999 / Chicago/ Illinois)

A Boy Named Sue

Poem by Shel Silverstein

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.

Comments about A Boy Named Sue by Shel Silverstein

  • leslie Landberg (4/29/2020 2:08:00 AM)

    My brother's name is Hilary and he's tough, belive me! I have always loved this song and never knew Shel Silverstein wrote the lyrics. Wow.(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
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  • Sylvia Frances ChanSylvia Frances Chan (10/9/2019 1:23:00 AM)

    Loveliest worded, excellently presented BUT a too tragic poem, involving a boy's life and future.
    I like the honesty in this fervent write, but imagine that the son could commit suicide too.
    Instead he became a man and a poet. I know for sure, his whole inside was suffering constantly till he died.
    What a father. He left his family because he was a drunkard. Luckily his son was not. Brilliant poem.(Report)Reply

    0 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • Earl Pedoman (5/26/2019 11:58:00 PM)

    I eat babies. for BEKFAST lunch and Dinner.(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • luz2907! (4/22/2019 5:21:00 PM)

    touching but kind of dark(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • riley853046 (3/4/2019 6:41:00 PM)

    i love it im using it

    5 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • T.Rajesh (10/10/2018 2:38:00 AM)

    This is really a very good story narrated by the great poet. Loved it.(Report)Reply

    7 person liked.
    1 person did not like.
  • (8/20/2018 3:43:00 PM)

    Looking for a poem about crying(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    7 person did not like.
  • Samin Bakshi (7/1/2018 10:08:00 AM)

    I love it. I would've loved it keener if it ended three stanza' soon. It seems though that the last paragraph completes the story though. Bill and George represent material bonds. This is a humorous slap to literature.(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Britte NinadBritte Ninad (5/23/2018 3:48:00 AM)

    the blood relation is longer lasting

    wow wonderful poem(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • Emma231 (5/7/2018 11:47:00 AM)

    Well it; s still a good poem(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    3 person did not like.
  • cheychey (5/3/2018 8:27:00 PM)

    it is kind inappropriate and i'm 12(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • jewish (4/11/2018 9:48:00 AM)

    i have crippling depression(Report)Reply

    4 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • Tristen (4/9/2018 10:40:00 AM)

    KInd of inaproprete for a 9 year old(Report)Reply

    3 person liked.
    6 person did not like.
  • _________________ (3/13/2018 12:52:00 PM)

    this is actually amazing(Report)Reply

    1 person liked.
    4 person did not like.
  • booooooo (3/13/2018 11:26:00 AM)

    wooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow...... not(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    10 person did not like.
  • woooow (3/13/2018 11:13:00 AM)

    ummmmmm mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm(Report)Reply

    2 person liked.
    7 person did not like.
  • BEKFAST (3/1/2018 10:16:00 AM)

    best poem ever i i i ii i i i i i i i love this poem i i i i i i ii ii i i i ii ii i(Report)Reply

    7 person liked.
    5 person did not like.
  • Darlan M CunhaDarlan M Cunha (1/14/2016 2:09:00 PM)

    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...(Report)Reply

    19 person liked.
    12 person did not like.
  • Frank James Ryan Jr...fjrFrank James Ryan Jr...fjr (8/16/2015 10:12:00 PM)

    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~(Report)Reply

    17 person liked.
    17 person did not like.
  • Kim BarneyKim Barney (8/16/2015 12:35:00 PM)

    I've always loved to hear Johnny Cash sing his version of this.
    Silverstein also has 'Father of a Boy named Sue', and it's funny, but gets a little bit raunchy.(Report)Reply

    15 person liked.
    16 person did not like.
Read all 28 comments »

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Poem Submitted: Tuesday, April 6, 2010

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