He’s tired of winding up the gramophone
Half way through “Three Little Maids,”
And waiting for a rickshaw to return from the bazaar.
The monsoon teems on the compound.
A coolie, splitting coconuts on an iron spike,
Stoops to wring the rain out of his loin-cloth.
The boy picks up a box of matches.

His little sister comes from the nursery holding a doll.
“Give me that!” “What for?”
“I want to set it on fire.” “You wouldn’t dare.”
“I will if you help me. It’s fun to play with fire.”
She puts the doll on the floor. He strikes a match
And holds it gingerly under the pink legs.
The girl screeches like a cockatoo.

The fire bursts into song,
Eats the doll, sticks out its tongue, stands up
Gyrating like a crimson top: then dies.
Burnt celluloid leaves a guilty smell.
The girl cries over the ashes, “Give me back my doll!”
“An angel took it to heaven, didn’t you see?”
The devil needs thrashing with a shoe.

This Issue

November 16, 1972