Little Boy Ke

This is the tale of the little boy Ke,
Born in Papua where, perhaps you've heard say,
The cannibals live on just one meal a day.

Which some people say is the right thing to do.
I don't think that cannibals ought to have two
And I hope that they'll never invite me – or you.

To continue our story – He was black as the ace
Of spades, or perhaps clubs, and he felt no disgrace
If he went off to bed without washing his face.

He never lost buttons or toes from his shoes,
Nor pieces of shirt, nor the seat of his troos,
He had no clothes at all, so he'd nothing to lose.

Like all little boys he continued to grow,
A bright little, black little fellow, but Oh.
There were so many things that he wanted to know.

He went round the village and asked the wise men
Who thought they knew everything – well- up to then.
If they said 'You be off!' he'd go ask them again.

He wanted to know why it rained every day.
And why all the water kept running away.
Were the clouds going somewhere? Why didn't they stay?

'There were sun, moon and stars, birds, insects and trees,
And no end of questions he asked about these
And other things too. He was so hard to please.

Now this sort of thing began quickly to pall
On the very wise men. It made them look small
And almost believe they knew nothing at all.

The very wise men didn't know where they were
So they sat in the dubu to 'cuss and confer.
There was never a boy who had caused such a stir.

'These questions must stop,' the wisest man said.
'There is only one way – we'll cut off his head
And stew him with sago,' which serves there for bread.

So, in sadness and sorrow, reluctantly they
Sat down and ate up that poor little boy Ke.
He upset their tummies – and does to this day.

                                        Arthur Wade (1947)
 

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