Where the Sidewalk Ends
by Shel Silverstein
Stanza 2 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
- These lines give us details about the world where there is sidewalk, and so far, that world does not sound pleasant at all.
- The speaker is including us, his readers, in his invitation to leave the world where there is sidewalk, the world in which we live our everyday lives.
- If you live anywhere near a city, you'll probably have an idea of the kind of smoke he's talking about. It blows black out of factories, chimneys, car and truck exhaust pipes, and grimes up everything from the sidewalks to the inside of your nostrils. Yuck..
- Line 7 is in direct contrast to line 6: what would you choose, black smoke, or peppermint wind? The choice is made pretty easy for us readers.
- And of course, Silverstein pops in another dose of alliteration with the phrase "blows black." Does this have the same effect as the alliteration in line three?
- Saying it this way (instead of the "black smoke blows") also puts stress on the word black, which emphasizes the darkness of this place.
- Line 8 continues to give details about the world we're being encouraged to leave. Not only is there gross black smoke, there are dark streets, probably lined by sidewalk.
- The street winds and bends, and we're guessing there's some new scary darkness around every corner. This description makes us want to leave the city streets to go to a place where there are no scary winding and bending roads, but where the whole horizon is open to be fearlessly explored.
- Line 8 opens up all kinds of metaphorical meanings for us. Streets and roads are often used as metaphors for the future. Perhaps, this line is hinting that unless we get out of the place where the smoke blows black our lives will be full of dark twists and turns.
- And how about this? The word "winds" in line 8, sure does look a lot like the word "wind" in line 6. But they have totally different meanings. Do you think this was intentional on the poet's part? Why?
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
- This line shows us even more of the dark beauty of the world we're in, the world the speaker wants us to journey beyond.
- There are pits here, and in these pits, there are "asphalt flowers." We can imagine a lone flower sticking up through the asphalt – something beautiful in this paved, industrial, yucky world.
- Check out the repetition of the p and t sounds in "past the pits" and "asphalt." Yep, this poem is just as fun to read aloud as it is to imagine silently.
- We're starting to notice that Silverstein's quite the alliterative guy. Why do you think he uses that tool so much?
- Also, remember that as we're hearing about this asphalt world, we're being urged to go beyond it, to leave it far behind.
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
- This line is telling us exactly how we're going to get past the asphalt pits and black smoke to the world where the sidewalk ends – by walking slowly.
- Note how the word walk is repeated in this line. Now, that's no mistake on our speaker's part, but it might have to be read aloud to be fully appreciated. Imagine the slap of footsteps on pavement with each beat of this line, the repetition of the word "walk" giving us the rhythm of this slow pace.
- Plus, it's yet another example of alliteration, especially when you toss in "we" and "with."
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
- In case we've been dragged too deeply into the scary world of the previous lines, these lines remind us that we're heading to where the sidewalk ends. Whew.
- We're also told that we can get there by following arrows: we'll watch the arrows as we walk and they'll bring us to where we need to be.
- These arrows are chalk-white, which is more a description of the color than an explanation of how they are made. At least, that's all we can know from this line. So, while the arrows may or may not be drawn in chalk, they look like they are.
- At any rate, when we think of chalk drawings, we think of children, making designs and scribbling with chalk on pavement, turning a black street or gray sidewalk into a canvas.
- And here comes the kicker: the last line of the stanza is a repetition, slightly altered, of the title and the first line. This line is becoming a rhythmic refrain, reminding us of the most important part of this poem, our ultimate destination: the place of wonder away from all the icky pavement.