Shel Silverstein

The winner

The hulk of a man with a beer in his hand looked like a drunk old fool
And I knew that if I hit him right, I could knock him off that stool
But everybody said: "Watch out, that's Tiger Man McCool!
He's had a whole lot of fights, and he always come out the winner -- yeah, he's a winner."

But I'd had myself about five too many, and I walked up tall and proud
I faced his back and I faced the fact that he'd never stooped or bowed
I said: "Tiger Man, you're a pussycat," and a hush fell on the crowd
I said: "Let's you and me go outside and see who's the winner!"

Well, he gripped the bar with one big hairy hand and he braced against the wall
He slowly looked up from his beer -- my God, that man was tall!
He said: "Boy, I see you're a scrapper, so just before you fall
I'm gonna tell you just a little what it means to be a winner."

He said: "You see, these bright white smiling teeth, you know they ain't my own
Mine rolled away like chiclets down a street in San Antone'
But I left that person cursing, nursing seven broken bones
And he only broke three of mine, and that make me a winner."

He said: "Behind this grin, I got a steel pin that holds my jaw in place,
a trophy of my most successful motorcycle race
And every morning when I wake and touch this scar across my face,
it reminds me of all I got by being a winner.

Now my broken back was the dying act of handsome Harry Clay,
that sticky Cincinnati night I stole his wife away
But that woman, she gets uglier and meaner every day
But I got her, boy, and that's what makes me a winner.

You gotta speak loud when you challenge me, son, 'cause it's hard for me to hear,
with this twisted neck and these migraine pains and this cauliflower ear
And if it weren't for this glass eye of mine, I'd shed a happy tear,
to think of all you'll get by being a winner.

I got arthritic elbows, boy, I got dislocated knees,
from picking fights with thunderstorms and charging into trees
And my nose's been broke so often I might lose it if I sneeze
And, son, you say you still wanna be a winner?

My spine is short three vertebrae and my hip is screwed together
My ankles warn me every time there'll be a change in weather
Guess I kicked too many asses, and when the kicks all get together,
they sure can slow you down when you're a winner.

My knuckles are so swollen I can hardly make a fist
Who would have thought old Charlie had a blade taped to his wrist?
And my blind eye's where he cut me, and my good eye's where he missed
Yeah, you lose a couple of things when you're a winner.

My head is just a bunch of clumps and lumps and bumps and scars,
from charging broken bottles and butting crowded bars
And this hernia, well, it only proves a man can't lift a car
But you're expected to do it all when you're a winner.

Got a steel plate inside my skull, underneath this store-bought hair
My pelvis is aluminum from taking ladies' dares
And if you had a magnet, son, you could lift me off my chair
I'm a man of steel, but I'm rusting -- what a winner.

I got a perforated ulcer, I got strictures and incisions
My prostate's barely holding up from those all-night collisions
And I'll have to fight two of you because of my double vision
You're looking sick, son -- that ain't right for a winner.

Winning that last stock-car race cost me my favorite toes
Winning that factory foreman's job, it browned and broke my nose
And these hemorrhoids come from winning all them goddamn rodeos
Sometimes it's a pain in the butt to be a winner.

In the war, I got the Purple Heart, that's why my nerves are gone
And I ruined my liver in drinking contests, which I always won
And I should be retired now, rocking on my lawn
But you losers keep coming on -- making me a winner.

When I walk, you can hear my pelvis rattle, creak and crack,
from my great Olympic hump-off with that nymphomaniac,
after which I spent the next six weeks in traction on my back,
while whe walked off smiling -- leavin' me the winner.

Now, as I kick in your family jewels, you'll notice my left leg drags
And this jacket's kind of padded up where my right shoulder sags
And there's a special part of me I keep in this paper bag
And I'll show it to you -- if you want to see all of the winner.

So I never play the violin and I seldom dance or ski
They say there never was a hero brave and strong as me
But when you're this year's hero, son, you're next year's used-to-be
And that's the facts of life -- when you're a winner.

Now, you remind me a lot of my younger days with your knuckles clenching white
But, boy, I'm gonna sit right here and sip this beer all night
And if there's something you gotta prove by winning some silly fight,
well, o.k., I quit, I lose, son, you're the winner."

So I stumbled from that bar room not so tall and not so proud
And behind me I could hear the hoots of laughter from the crowd
But my eyes still see and my nose still works and my teeth are still in my mouth
And you know -- I guess that makes me -- a winner.

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