Poet’s notebook: My poem, “From the land of giants” (a birthday poem to myself) followed by a reflection

From the land of giants

Who wants to take on some giants?
Heal the poison river?
Grieve the broken mountain?
Release the waterfall?
Learn the hundred names for rain?

When I was here the other day
And asked you to come out and play,
The grass was still dewy,
And the birds were cheerful.
It was Spring just yesterday!

It was Summer when I saw my mother
Weeding in the garden,
Wearing a kerchief.
She was no taller than the tomato vines,
Singing to herself, singing to the garden.

And when she stood up to see where I was
I was hiding in the chard.
Their ruby stems were trunks of trees
Of a forest that hid me well
Until I was bigger than a mouse

And could steal among the giants:
Mountain Destroyer, Elephant Killer,
He-who-kicks-sand-in-the-eyes-of-stars,
Blue Giant, Twister, One-Eye, Fracker,
Missile Tosser, War Maker, Water-fouler . . .

My mother never dreamed of a world like this!
She never quested on a mountain of chalk.
She never saw a mountain of stone
Disappear for a mountain of coal.
Always her son, I befriended the hermit

In the desert of my heart.
I turned my ankle on the high path to the cedar.
I made my peace with the butterfly
With the tattered wing,
I made no bones about my desolation.

I ranted, foaming at the mouth.
They locked me up and threw away the key.
I wrote myself out of prison after prison,
I found my freedom.
That’s what they call it
When they let you get away

Because they don’t think you have any power.
But here I am in Giant Land,
Still here on my 66th birthday!
And I’m asking, for my mother’s sake:
(Planter of tomatoes, Singer-in-the-garden)

Who wants to take on some giants?
Heal the poison river?
Grieve the broken mountain?
Release the waterfall?
Learn the hundred names for rain?

Reflection: When I woke up this morning I was already tired, kind of headachy, weary. I forgot it was my birthday until my wife, Shirley reminded me. 66 years. Ye-gads, how did I live that long? I’m doing OK though. Life is pretty good, considering. I don’t think the world is doing very well however, and that tends to get me down. I decided to address this in a poem. What’s wrong with the world is huge. It’s almost as we’re living in a land of giants where the giants are running amok. This was an odd poem. I wrote a few stanzas without having the slightest clue where it was going. Giant Land? I’ve been reading a book of poetry by Gary Lawless, Caribou Planet. He plays with scale a lot . . . He depicts the animals and the spirits of the animals as larger than life while dramatizing the relative smallness of humanity. Truly, we’re not as important as we think, except as spoilers in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes I feel like a giant when I am with my cats and I try to be a kind and gentle giant. But out in the world I see huge damage being wrought by enormous powers (in the form of corporations, governments, runaway capitalism, consumerism) but whatever you call them they are essentially monstrous spirits of violence and greed. I personified them, gave them names. I also thought of my mother and how she raised me to love and honor life. I guess she also raised me to stand up to giants, and the poem became an invitation for all of us to become giant slayers. That very early memory of my mother in the garden has come up before but this is the first time I’ve put it into a poem.

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