A-tisket, a-tasket

A green and yellow basket

I wrote a letter to my love

And on the way I dropped it

I dropped it

I dropped it

Yes, on the way I dropped it

A little boy he picked it up

and put it in his pocket.


Most of us having heard these lyrics might reasonably assume the narrator is no Casanova.  He or she – unspecified, but, for the sake of brevity I’m going with ‘he’ – repeats himself four times in nine lines, opens with nonsense words and random basket imagery, and goes on to convey a bumbling sequence of events that leads to him losing his correspondence.

But how does the narrator know that the little boy took it?

Did he double back on his trail once he realized what he lost, arriving at the exact place where he let it go just as a child picked it up?  The timing is unlikely, and if that were the case, why wouldn’t he just say the letter was his instead of letting the kid pocket it?  The facts, as we have them, are rather more mysterious:  our storyteller drops his document and then remains in place, helplessly watching while a child takes possession.

Ponder now, the basket.  The brightly-colored, nonsensical opening image of our raving narrator.  If at first we imagined an ordinary wicker container tucked under the poet’s arm, we should reconsider; if that had been the case, the lover surely would have tucked the letter safely inside, where it could not have fallen in the first place.

No, that basket belonged to someone else.  Someone blocking our storyteller’s way – someone our narrator was never able to pass.  Someone who wanted that letter.

Although it was written to our narrator’s love, you see, it couldn’t have been a love-letter.  The information it bore must have been both dangerous and valuable.  Otherwise, why didn’t the poet mail it?  What was it that he was too afraid to say out loud, that he had to write down and hand-deliver to the one person he trusted more than anyone in the world?

Consider the tenor of the rhyme.  Stuttering, fraught with repetition and a fixation on sensory images: the bright green and yellow of the basket, the dropping, dropping of the letter, the little boy, and then the little boy’s actions – picking the letter up and putting it into his pocket.  These aren’t the gentle musings of a love-struck fool.  These are the hyper-vigilant exclamations of a man in corporeal shock.

There is but one thing a brightly-colored basket might contain capable of causing such trauma.  Replace the word “basket” with, “bin,” “cooler,” or “thermal bag.”  Whether in a medical storage unit, or at an unforeseen rendezvous along an isolated thoroughfare, the contents are bound to be the same: Human. Innards.

Tragically, and obviously, our ditty’s dear narrator stumbled upon a ring of human-organ harvesters.   Rather than fleeing, his first thought was recording what he’d witnessed and overheard – damning details, likely, including the names of complicit community members.

He would address such a recording to his lover, and no one else, only if law enforcement were corrupt, and his lover were powerful enough to single-handedly put a stop to the gruesome stolen-organ trade.  It never enters our poet’s head to fear for his lover’s safety in possession of such knowledge.  The object of his affection seems above ordinary danger.  He is probably writing to a very highborn noble, perhaps even a royal.  Hence, he rushes to find his lover and hand-deliver the note; only in such powerful company can he be sure of his own safety.

Unfortunately, it seems he is overtaken en route by the harvesters, who promptly rip out his marketable bits and sling him into whatever shallow ditch afforded him his view of the letter dropping onto the road, where the harvesters’ young apprentice retrieves it.

In his delirious death-throes, the poet recounts the day’s events, unable to process or question whether, in fact, his lover was part of the plot.

Case regretfully closed.