What If 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 taller?
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 swell, and then
The night-time Whatif strikes again!

Summary

When we retire to bed at night, there are a lot of fears that trouble us. In this poem, the poet is filled with anxiety about certain things that might happen to him. He refers to these anxious questions as ‘What’ if.

The poet wonders what (will happen) if he becomes dumb or if the school closes the swimming pool or if somebody beats him badly or poisons him. What will happen if he falls sick and dies or he fails in the test or if green hair grow on his chest instead of black and nobody likes him. He might be stricken by lightening or he may stop growing or his head starts getting smaller. He is scared of silly happening like what if the fish stop biting (the bait), the wind tears his kite, or his parents get divorced, or his teeth become crooked or if he can never learn to dance.

When he gets up in the morning, every thing is normal. When night falls, these ‘what if’ doubts and fears come again.

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