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The Time of the Giants

The Time of the Giants

by Anne Kennedy

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Affectionate yet satirical, this sequence of poems focuses on a family of giants and, in particular, on a young giant woman and her efforts to conceal from her normally sized lover how tall she truly is. The witty verses are infused with warmth and transcend a reader's everyday reality and experiences. As disturbing and fabulous as a classic fairy tale, this


Affectionate yet satirical, this sequence of poems focuses on a family of giants and, in particular, on a young giant woman and her efforts to conceal from her normally sized lover how tall she truly is. The witty verses are infused with warmth and transcend a reader's everyday reality and experiences. As disturbing and fabulous as a classic fairy tale, this gathering of work showcases the fanciful aspects of contemporary manners.

Product Details

Auckland University Press
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Time of the Giants

By Anne Kennedy

Auckland University Press

Copyright © 2005 Anne Kennedy
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-77558-208-3


    Rain, drum

    In the time when giants walked the earth
    rain was all that came between
    a giant and his gods

    or hers. When giants walked the earth
    their winter stamp could still be felt
    drumming next spring

    and when a giant fell for another giant
    their love was the height
    of all things high then low.

    She grew to love him
    the way rain drums in spring.


    Boy girl, furniture, shyness


    When the children sat on their chairs they spilled
    over the sides and hid them as if the chairs
    were mountains and they themselves
    low cloud heavy thunderous any minute
    about to bucket down onto tussock
    or enter the mulchy underloops of carpet.
    This was limbo then there would be hell
    maybe although no one had
    been there and come back to tell
    the tale.

    At night they lay in their creaky beds like
    arrived at the very bottom of the valley
    (i.e. no further to roll). In this way the children
    encompassed the highs and lows of

    That is all you need to know
    how every cell quivers.


    There was a boy older and a girl younger
    always one bicycle wheel in the wake
    of the other. This seemed to compound things.
    When they were thirteen and nine respectively
    there came a knocking at the door one day
    during a storm and they thought it was
    the storm knocking
    so they ignored it until the girl saw
    from the window it was a man with a windsock
    for hair and raindrops stilled above his nose.
    He came from the Orthopaedic Department
    of the Children's Hospital, a Mr Flucktrough.
    They had been waiting for him.

    Strictly speaking the children were under the
    of Neurology but it was Orthopaedics
    that made the furniture, so they got
    Mr Flucktrough. Mr Flucktrough shrugged off
    too big coat (a small man hard to
    shop for) and looked up from his sweet well
    of tea thank you very much but remember
    not too much tea for the little ones
    who were sipping buckets. He himself
    grew up on it. It stunted his growth the lack of
    absorption. How a plant's tip steeped
    in water could bar the way of heavy metal
    like locks and chains
    amazing but in those days we knew

    The girl thought to swim in a sea of tea
    and drink with every stroke
    with milk and sugar and it would dye her hair
    the colour of tea and her skin would be
    tea she would be small with a delicate
    flavour like tea.

    But you two said Mr Flucktrough if you keep off
    the tea and with your at first glance good strong
    bones, with any luck you'll be the height of a
    I don't know the height of a round
    tower! Mum and Dad's tea was made
    choppy with their spluttering.
    The children looked down on the top of his
    head their faces blank with curiosity
    his nervous manner and the look of someone yes
    about him. The pebble glasses (filmed with
    white dried rain) the pale face
    tubercular perhaps but they certainly
    hoped not.

    Mr Flucktrough surveyed the tender
    looking children
    set about measuring length width circumference
    serious as a Sputnik circumnavigating
    the earth. He took
    his pencil from behind his ear the way they
    launch shuttles. All was
    absorbed in the room. The sounds of parents
    of man (Mr F.) having one place and one place
    to land.

    He then asked boy girl in that order because the
    was taller and went first in the world
    like an important early letter of the alphabet
    always first in line at school and on everybody's
    list, to get up from their chairs and traverse
    the stuffy little what-would-have-been-called
    parlour when the house was built
    proceed along the passage
    in the wake of the ghost who once drifted
    the polished floors itself like the wake of a car
    on a wet
    motorway or a wedding train
    to their bedrooms. There to lie
    in their beds. They curled like soft unborns or a
    sea wall
    following a sea's hairline or guarding
    their own pockets of warm air against

    They looked up at Mr Flucktrough
    bulky with their old sleeps
    their belongings.

    The boy was eight feet in his stocking
    feet. The girl tiptoed behind.


    Ever since beginning or anyway remembering
    that they had begun and that this was
    the big children had been waiting. They didn't
    think about waiting, they waited the way
    breathing or the beating of a heart waits
    for death i.e. get on with it.
    They waited for a visit from Mr Flucktrough. His
    waiting list
    he will tell you quite frankly (a good man)
    would break your heart. But the children
    on the list are always too busy with their limbs
    and the things that go with them, condiments
    like laughing etc to be bothered with

    There are the names of children with unique
    or a way of feet no one ever thought up before
    or original arms or even no arms. They rise
    up the page as slowly as steam or bubbles or
    or anything giddy with possibility.

    Sometimes they might pick their way delicately
    over the abandoned terrace
    a dead child leaves in its wake.
    In heaven there would be no need for furniture.

    Mostly their slow ascent was obscured
    by the cloudy horizon of
    the room they were sitting in.


    The big children — your children now, the
    you're reading about — their names mingled
    with the long line of names like fish jumping
    their bone marrow was
    running amok like rivers yes yes
    in spring. These rivers had a joyous wildness
    about them and the possibility
    no certainty of flood.

    Each month the Orthopaedic Department of the
    Hospital measured with knuckly instruments
    (not their fault, like old hands, tenderly)
    the humerus, the radius, the pelvis, the ribs
    the spine, femur, fibula, tibia
    as pet cats (Tibbles, etc) stroked over and over
    for comfort and to please the cat. The children's
    eyes rolling through the long hours of twilight
    might sometimes blink shut with
    their own little night or the next day.

    Neurology scanned their brains for answers none
    as yet. Their spines learned to round
    themselves like question marks. The parents
    must understand the possibility was remote
    but one day there might be a breakthrough
    as a curve of sea wall cast aside by a storm.
    One day brain and body awash
    with each other but don't hold
    your breath.


    They looked at the father closely, his slightly
    bigger-than-usual hands and feet his well
    way of getting up from the fine lines of a chair
    his carefully fenced sentences and
    as in a moment of gaining enlightenment
    everything was understood. Ah.


    The parents asked him where he got a name like
    and he said it was left him by the father he
    never met. A windfall I suppose although some
    might think it an albatross
    the wing of his white hand covering his smile
    and bad teeth (one assumed) and now we really
    must get on with the business of size.

    Mr Flucktrough released the big bones
    of the children like a dam breaking over
    toys. Toys! The boy is thirteen. He is fevering out
    all over in his final tropical form.

    In the bedroom Mr F. said straight now if you
    though kindly. They stretched out and their feet
    fell all shoeless into space. Now we can see
    said Mr F. as the children performed the required
    to audition for the lead role in their own lives
    reluctant eager marching lying (both types).
    Now you can stretch out. No one
    had ever said that. And when your new furniture
    arrives your size and shape will be
    as a mountain fits its knees under cloud
    as salmon has a bed of water to fall back on
    as the sky is a chair for a tree. No?
    There was a minute's silence.

    The boy strived to be sullen, the girl
    upholstered her teeth with well frankly
    lips into a sitting-room for a homebody
    of shyness. Mr Flucktrough dug for sweets as
    jelly to blow open the shy mouths
    bumbling and murmuring into the mouth of his
    as if it were his loving wife in bed. They're
    here somewhere but Mr Flucktrough was
    too late and later he would sigh to his wife
    as a hand sighs over documents
    to be signed finally.

    The children shook their heads at the sweets
    were barely children) (they were real sweets
    and looked down at Mr Flucktrough kindly
    because well now they were almost adult
    they knew all the essential
    ways of declining.

    Good. Mr Flucktrough told Mr and Mrs ah   hesitating
    at the name and casting hastily down through
    his reading glasses giving thanks for how light
    can be bent to his own ends and the name
    became bigger. This is not just a job
    but his calling.
    If there's anything anything. Of all his clients
    he remembered with fondness the giant
    children the height of a round
    tower and their sweet no.

    As he left a vase blew from a stand on the porch
    and rolled over the footpath into
    the gutter where the shards turned their
    once secret insides towards the sky.


    And so the little chairs little beds dear little
    were transfigured one blinding afternoon
    as if seen suddenly through a new
    magnifying glass powerful capable of
    cruelty. Removal men
    humped the crusty pieces Mum and Dad
    had picked out twenty odd years before for their
    interior, like wedding underthings.
    In the wake of dust and lace
    spiders fled for their lives. The men
    carried in the light hollow springy blocks of light
    one whistling a hollow tune into
    a divan bed like a town hall.
    Mum and Dad's hands motioned
    in the air lost at first and groping for their old
    shadows wrapped in new wood.

    At dinnertime they climbed up high
    to sit down.


    Never mind! Only the one sigh among all of them
    shared out evenly. There certainly were
    bigger issues life and death for instance. With
    this method
    every mountain could be an ornament. Mum and
    were quite used to nature as a cloud
    thank you very much wrung out in their
    thunderous hands and the great gouts
    of precipitation squally and unseasonable
    because there were no seasons.

    The big children would have no children
    and there would be no grandchildren
    to love or they would have big children
    and there would be
    no grandchildren to love.


    There were two children but now they are grown
    A boy, twenty-two — a man, he's a man now
    sits in his room and smokes
    a lot of hash and listens to the stereo.
    You can't hear the songs only feel them
    through the floor, hearsay. He listens for the
    He has a masters degree in Creative Writing
    like a pet he has grown quite fond of.
    The girl is nineteen. The woman.
    She is seven foot six, stooped
    her hair hangs like vines from a tree.
    This is what happened all before she was twenty.

    How the sky is given
    its blue.


    Genealogy, headland


    There was once a giant who loved another giant
    as if this were normal. They lived on their own
    land mass and married each other on their
    continent where plants grew wildly
    and the wind moaned in an odd voice
    they spoke in riddles and their
    children were born big.


    The nineteen-year-old girl (woman) could
    curse them their love which must have been
    the exhibitionist height of rain in fact she does
    — curse them that is but can't think of words
    with big enough you know
    sine waves.

    This is her history that is
    the truth.


    The giants lived on land that darkened at dusk
    and left the white sky brilliant against it
    they grew stark vegetables and hunted
    slow-moving animals, now extinct.
    The giants could step across
    the craggy outcrops and the fords
    and were perfectly formed by some god
    or another for the terrain. They praised
    the land and the gods and themselves
    every day and had no cause to
    wring their hands.

    There was Crightmop and Mollypool and their
    six sons and six daughters and if you looked
    across the causeway old Finn MaCoul built
    from hexagons one furious Cubist day and night
    (as an invitation to Cuchulain, the bigger giant
    over the water
    to come and fight) you would see
    silhouetted by the light on the water
    the six sons and six daughters
    of Lennihanahan and Briderygore.

    One day those sons and daughters came trip-trap
    over the causeway following the footsteps
    of Uncle Cuchulain (who'd come spoiling for a
    fight, fists balled
    all those years ago, going back as far as oh never
    but Oonah
    Finn MaCoul's wife had swaddled Finn as a
    baby is swaddled
    and tucked him up in bed and said look asleep
    and Finn MaCoul
    looked inward and Cuchulain thought these were
    the tight eyes of
    a baby and the daddy of that baby must be a
    really big giant
    and he ran back over the causeway).
    Well anyway the six sons and the six daughters
    who had come over the water were shy at first
    then playful a bit then playful a lot
    then romped together big in the fields
    laughing and falling over each other
    for all of the rest of summer and into the time of
    (if they had apples)
    until the weather got bad then
    they leapt over the hillocks and snuggled down
    in pairs from the harsh autumn winds.

    Come midsummer's night there were the babes.
    There was rejoicing and dancing and much
    screaming of the babies there were so many.
    And the mummy and daddy of each baby
    was built a cottage by everyone else who was
    too young or too old to have the particular
    that comes before babies
    although they probably had some pleasure
    and they all settled down and that is how
    the tribe began. And it was
    a good one.


    The names go on and on
    Clarkephilp and Wilkidam and Connoldy
    and many more forgotten
    but remembered by the giant cells jingling
    in all their bodies as if they were change
    in the pocket folds of the hills.


    Over time, a long long time the giants grew
    quite simply because there were more of them.
    They filled up the land so there was less distance
    between neighbours and they didn't have to
    pop far for an ale and a tale
    or the market place where death was
    and eventually the need to go striding
    giant-style over the land was near enough
    extinct. There were attempts
    to revive it at village games (long jump, pole
      vault etc)
    but as one wise descendant of a giant said
    once something is enshrined in culture
    it is dead. Never mind.

    Now there were families for growing and families
      for sewing
    and families for hunting though there were
    fewer wild beasts. Each generation
    was smaller than the last — in their bodies that is
    they still had a lot of children just
    medium-sized ones. And some of them
    kept going with the smallness and got so small
    they were
    little people, their limbs dainty
    their heads like acorns, all so small they could
    live under a leaf, no trouble to anyone at least
    not as much trouble as a giant — except for
    their mischief.

    But the bigness of the inside was never forgotten
    by the giant genes and the giant names.

    Sometimes you might get a throwback
    in a family of medium ones, a big redhead
    good at games
    and they'd reach up to chuck him
    under the chin and call him
    Tiny. Or her.


    Then came the blackness all that was bright
    became black and all that was plump thin
    and all that was joyful sorrowful and playful
    and spoken silent and musical mute and
    unthinkable and a bellyful became
    a groaning and the fleshy eye sockets
    of the children
    full of shadows
    and sunkenness.

    When they got to a certain
    point of fullness they died.

    Meanwhile across the border the merchants sold
    gin for a farthing a quart rather than let their
    fields of grain rot in the ground. They etched
    the new phenomenon for posterity and you can
    if you look it up in the library the black lines
    like moving silk weeds figuring
    not the dead children over the hills
    but the drunken mothers teeming in their own
    dark streets.

    So the giants went on a ship which in those days
    was a way of going to heaven
    or hell depending. They said goodbye like dying
    with a kiss and a last cup of tea
    and a weeping procession
    and a fiddling down to the sea.

    But the great ship that carried the descendants
    of Crightmop and Mollypool like babes carried
    by their wooden mother
    was dashed against the rocks a woman falling
    to domestic violence (the wife of a terrible
    sea god) off the coast of the new land
    and most of the giants rolled dead into the sea
    and washed in against the land
    and if you look out
    you will see how the giants
    became the long bodies
    of the headland.

    The saved few woke on the beach warm from an
    incubator dream of warm sea and land and no
    to the new sounds. Birdcall, branches.
    Alive! But would you believe it?
    The tribe from across the border back home
    the merchants who squandered the grain
    the very same! Running this place.


    So this is us alive but ever looking over our
    at the gaze of another
    who watched our wizened children
    stopping their games and
    dropping from starvation
    like early windfall for heaven.

    The girl (woman) learnt this at her grandmother's
    knee now gone and her body and her soul
    gone too somewhere and so she hates it
    (that is the way of inheritance
    for some people unfortunately).

    How they would have died but for the new land
    how she wishes they had sort of
    in some shape or form.

    They do anyway gradually
    the old people died leaving things undone
    the frayed ends of
    children and grandchildren.


Excerpted from The Time of the Giants by Anne Kennedy. Copyright © 2005 Anne Kennedy. Excerpted by permission of Auckland University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Anne Kennedy is a novelist, award-winning short story writer and poet, editor, literary critic, and scriptwriter. Her most recent poetry sequence is Sing-song. She lives in Honolulu, Hawaii.

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