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A LONG TIME AGO
When I was a kid, we often went on road trips. I suspect this was because, as a military family, we never lived in the same state as our grandparents or other relatives and had to travel to see them, which we did a lot. We drove to Michigan to visit my mom's parents and see all our cousins and aunts and uncles and we drove to Chicago to see my dad's mother.

There were three of us kids in the back seat of the station wagon... the big boat of a brown station wagon with wood side panels. Often we were lying down in the very BACK of the station wagon, reading or playing. Sometimes my sister and I would use each other as pillows. One of us would lie down with our head in the other's lap and then the other would drape themselves over top. Surprisingly comfortable!

But what I most remember about road trips is singing along to the music my dad was playing. WAY back when, it was 8-tracks. Chunky plastic bricks, usually white with a label on the front. My dad loved folk music and we listened to a lot of it. I can still sing most of the words to everything Peter, Paul & Mary ever recorded. We listened to John Denver and Anne Murray and The Limelighters and The Kingston Trio. And one of our favorites was The Irish Rovers. Because of The Unicorn song.

I didn't know, for years and years, that The Unicorn song was actually a POEM, written by Shel Silverstein, who somehow escaped my frenzied childhood reading of everything I could get my hands on, except for The Giving Tree, which I have rather mixed feelings about and which may be why I missed him, how I missed Where The Sidewalk Ends. Did you know he wrote The Boa Constrictor? So even though I don't remember actually reading any of his books as a kid, I still KNEW his stuff! Everyone knew his stuff.

Just singing along in my head about green alligators and long-necked geese throws me right back into that headspace. And it's a good place. Though I have to admit I like "humpty-backed camels" better than "humpy bumpy" ones.

The Unicorn

by Shel Silverstein
from the book "Where the Sidewalk Ends" (1974)

A long time ago, when the earth was green
and there was more kinds of animals than you've ever seen,
and they run around free while the world was bein' born,
and the loveliest of all was the Unicorn.

There was green alligators and long-neck geese.
There was humpy bumpy camels and chimpanzees.
There was catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born
the loveliest of all was the Unicorn.

But the Lord seen some sinnin', and it caused him pain.
He says, "Stand back, I'm gonna make it rain."
He says, "Hey Brother Noah, I'll tell ya whatcha do.
Go and build me a floatin' zoo.

And you take two alligators and a couple of geese,
two humpy bumpy camels and two chimpanzees.
Take two catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born,
Noah, don't you forget my Unicorn."

Now Noah was there, he answered the callin'
and he finished up the ark just as the rain was fallin'.
He marched in the animals two by two,
and he called out as they went through,

"Hey Lord, I got your two alligators and your couple of geese,
your humpy bumpy camels and your chimpanzees.
Got your catsandratsandelephants - but Lord, I'm so forlorn
'cause I just don't see no Unicorn."

Ol' Noah looked out through the drivin' rain
but the Unicorns were hidin', playin' silly games.
They were kickin' and splashin' in the misty morn,
oh them silly Unicorn.

The the goat started goatin', and the snake started snakin',
the elephant started elephantin', and the boat started shaking'.
The mouse started squeakin', and the lion started roarin',
and everyone's aboard but the Unicorn.

I mean the green alligators and the long-neck geese,
the humpy bumpy camels and the chimpanzees.
Noah cried, "Close the door 'cause the rain is pourin' -
and we just can't wait for them Unicorn."

Then the ark started movin', and it drifted with the tide,
and the Unicorns looked up from the rock and cried.
And the water come up and sort of floated them away -
that's why you've never seen a Unicorn to this day.

You'll see a lot of alligators and a whole mess of geese.
You'll see humpy bumpy camels and lots of chimpanzees.
You'll see catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born
you're never gonna see no Unicorn.
tired
mood: tired
music: What else?


Comments
(Anonymous)

I had no idea Either!!!!! What fun to find out. Thanks for the poetry education.
Love your lap pillow!! Seester

(Anonymous)
From Megsie

How the heck did you miss him? I read Where the Sidewalk Ends back to front to back again. I memorized "Sick" for my second grade poem that I had to recite in front of the class. I loved him. LOVED. I still love Hug 'o War. Okay. I will stop gushing. I am so glad you chose HIM even though I love Maya Angelou too.

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