The cliché advice when we go for job interviews or doing a performance is to think of the audience or the interviewers with no clothes on, or think of them on the toilet.
Someone once said to me that another technique is to imagine the person smaller.
This poem is about that really – the fallacy that size or lack of it can make someone less frightening.
But also about power, and who has it and who doesn’t. How sometimes power that looks like power can be not-power, can be something else. The power to make someone smaller, to diminish them, to make them a character of black/white, good/evil, to make something simple, sometimes isn’t power at all.
In Ovid’s version of the story of Thetis, who is a shape-shifter, a goddess of the waves who can become any animal or bird that she chooses, is promised in marriage to Peleus, against her will. Peleus catches her in a sea-cave and binds her, waiting while she changes into hundreds of different shapes before she eventually gives in and submits to him.
Sometimes the power to change is no power at all either.
The World’s Smallest Man
Today I make you into the world’s smallest man.
You are so small I open my hand and you dance
on the great landscape of my palm.
You are a thin stick of a man. When you stretch out
along my life line, your feet touch my wrist
and your head rests below my index finger.
You are a small man, but like a small dog
you are unaware of your size. Sometimes
you go missing for days then jump out
and shout surprise! But you do not mean surprise.
I decided to make you even smaller, the size
of an insect. Now you can walk upside down.
I think of all the places I could leave you
now you are smaller than the lightest
water boatman, but you keep shrinking
till you are less than a grain of salt,
so small you are living on my skin.
And, once I breathe, I breathe you in.