The Gentle Giant

by Craig Martin

I knew this lanky fella
called Joe, once.
He told me how he'd grown the size he was;
six foot, seven foot, eight foot plus
cos when he was younger
he tripped on his bonce
and the nurse told him
that it would always affect his growth.

'Skyscraper,' we used to call him
(very imaginative).
We used to joke that he'd always be first
with the weather forecast.
'What's it like up there?'
He'd smile gently, then look up for us, at play.
'High chance of rain,' he'd say with outstretched palm
and we'd buckle with laughter.

He could never meet a girl,
he told me much later.
It was cos of his size, he said.
But what I reckon was that
he just got tongue-tied –
a lack of confidence
– just like the rest of us.
'It was more than that,' he said.

Getting clothes to fit was a problem
(they never did).
Always bursting at the seams they were
and getting a proper bed was another
(his long bony legs were to be found
most nights hung out the window to the moon).
I lost touch with him not long after.
Moved on.

If I ever bumped into him again
and nowadays that's well within reason –
I'd spot him a mile off
– and I'd ask him how he'd been
and if he remembered old times when we were friends.
I'd tell him that I always liked him on my basketball team. We often won.
And I'd ask him if he'd met someone,
you know - the one - cos it would be really good for him.

©Craig Martin, 2022

This poem was longlisted as part of the Spectrum: Poetry Celebrating Identity project. Click here to find out more about the project, and other poems on the longlist here.


The concept of identity – be it class, gender, sexuality, national, institutional, or anything else we define ourselves by – has gone through radical change over the past half-century, and the idea of definition by binary oppositions is no longer as relevant as it once was.

Spectrum is a poetry anthology that seeks to amplify marginalised voices, and to celebrate the great diversity and rich variation in the identities of people from around the world and from a huge cross-section of walks of life.

Click here for the anthology of shortlisted poems.