Raj Arumugam

Listening To Every Tom, Dick And Donkey - Poem by Raj Arumugam

Come, we have a story, said the Old Man. Come, sit and I shall tell you all a little tale of a donkey, a boy and his father…and of strangers too…and many a busybody…
And the children sat round the campfire and the Old Man began his tale…

One day
(and this is many, many
uncountable days ago)
Father called Son
and he said:
you are grown now
into a fine young lad
and you must learn
how to buy and sell
and make a profit

‘So, come let us go
you and I
to the market to see
what silver coins we can get
for this old donkey
in our shed’


And so Son and Dad
set out for the town market
across the sandy and rocky miles
and some way off
Dad grew tired and he said:

‘Ah, Son
this walk tires me and so
I shall ride the donkey
while you walk by the side;
so, come let us go
you and I
to the market to see
what silver coins we can get
for this old donkey
that I shall ride’


‘Ho, ho!
What do we have here? ’
came a voice
as the Dad sat riding the donkey
while the Son walked by the side
‘A cruel father you are, ’
said the Family Standards Officer
‘Get down, you grown man
and let the child ride! ’

And the Father was ashamed
and so he let the Son ride the donkey
and he walked beside

And the Family Standards Officer
was extremely pleased
and he filled up his forms
and he bade the Father and Son safe journey:
‘Ah, this is another
success story
of the Family Welfare Dept
where conscience has won the day
and the Son rides the donkey
and the Father walks beside’

A nd the Father and Son are gone but a mile, a mile - when another interruption came their way, heading straight their way….

‘What do we have here? ’
came a scream
and the Mandarin of the
State Morals Education
stopped the trio
and the Mandarin glared disapprovingly
at the boy riding the donkey and he said:
‘Where is your filial piety?
Know you not the son must do his duty
by the father?
Get off the donkey -
you young donkey!
and allow your father to ride
while you walk with reverence
and duty beside! ’

And so now we have the
Father on the donkey
and the Son walking beside
all three slowly on and on
Father and son
to the market to see
what silver coins
they might get
for this old donkey
that they have taken turns to ride


Then comes an old woman
and she mutters to herself as she passes by:
‘Ah, what’s come of life
that a father should ride and
allow the young to walk.’

And so the Father bids his Son
be a pillion rider with him on the donkey
and so they ride
merrily, merrily
on to the market
to see
what silver coins they can get
for this old donkey
that they both ride


But no sooner have they covered
but a mile, just a mile
with the respectable Father
and the filial Son
(both on the hapless donkey)
when a voice thunders out from the bush
and the Animal Rights Activist stands out
and he screams:
‘Oh, you cruel people
that you should ride a helpless donkey!
Shame on you!
Much better that you both
carried the creature! ’

And of course
the Son and Father
so reasonable and
always with an open mind
they jump off the donkey
and they carry
the donkey all the way
all the way
just four more miles
just four more miles
and they soon come into the market
carrying the donkey
and shouting:
‘Donkey for sale!
Donkey for sale! ’


And the buyers
at the markets
they see
this Father and Son
carrying the donkey
and screaming:
‘Donkey f or sale!
Donkey for sale! ’

And the buyers they say:
‘But it appears, Sirs,
there are
three donkeys for sale
three donkeys for sale!
In declaring
“Donkey for Sale! ”
when there are clearly three
are you offering three
for the price of one? ’

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Poem Submitted: Monday, April 26, 2010

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