Michael Marks

WHEN TITANS WALKED

With all the things in life I had prepared myself to do,
The moments left of great surprise I thought were very few.
And yet one summer afternoon, at home of all the places –-
I found myself surrounded by a group of eager faces.

Their foreman was my grandson, who was barely more than ten,
Amid a pack of other boys now crowded in my den.
“We have to do a group report,” he said with voice enthused.
“But we don’t know which one is right, we’re all a bit confused.
We thought they were a football team, but then we found a moon,
and then some stuff from ancient Greece; we gotta know real soon.”

“Slow down,” I said amid the rush, the thread too long to follow;
it seemed to me a giant leap from football to Apollo.
“Just take a breath and tell me what it is you need to know,
and I will give you any knowledge that I can bestow.”
They took a breath and I could see their little faces brighten.
“Well, Grandma said that you would tell us all about the Titans.”

“Oh she did,” I mused, a grin most wry now forming on my lip,
the smell of cookies in the air, most likely chocolate chip.
Well gather round, and so I leaned, my voice now free of mirth,
and I will tell you of the time when Titans walked the earth.

“It all began in time of war,” I said, my tone ablaze.
The boys fell deathly silent, not an eye turned from my gaze.
“Twice it was already that the whole world shook with fear
and felt the tremble in the ground as enemies drew near.”

“But all too soon it seemed that once again the bombs would fall.
The third was sure to be the final ending of us all.
In back yards there were shelters rather than a swimming pool
and on a siren children hid beneath their desk at school.
They lived in fear that any day would bring an end most dire;
a day when cities vanished in a ball of roaring fire.

And that was when the Titans came from in their caves of stone,
from deep beneath the earth their doors slid opened with a groan.
Their swords as tall as buildings they could split a mountain sunder;
and when they growled their anger shook the ground like bolts of thunder.

The Titans rose and showed themselves for all the world to know,
Emblazoned on their mighty shields the number three-nine-oh.
And with a voice as loud and clear as trumpets made of brass,
They carved a line across the earth and snarled, ‘You shall not pass.’

And then it was our enemies who trembled at the sight;
they placed their swords upon the ground and backed away in fright.
For now they faced a guardian no army could resist,
and no one wish to be the first to feel the Titan’s fist.

The Titans stood their silent watch as one by one our foes
withdrew their tanks, their airplanes and their soldiers lined in rows.
And only when the last was gone and they were left alone,
did Titans once again return to fortresses of stone.

My grandson was the first to speak and break the silent scene.
But what if they come back, he said, our enemies, I mean.
What if they decide to bring the fight to our home town
and come with bombs and guns and stuff when Titan’s aren’t around?

I smiled and said “Don’t worry son, that isn’t gonna happen.”
The Titans aren’t really gone; they’re just nearby and nappin’.
And should the need arise to wake the Titans from their slumber;
They left behind some special guys who always have their number.
So rolling up my sleeve I leaned amid the boys to show,
The letters proudly inked in black, the number three-nine-oh.

Author’s Note: This was written with the deepest respect and gratitude to the members of the Titan Missile Group: the 390th Strategic Missile Wing Memorial Association, on the occasion of their 2004 Tucson Reunion. This poem now hangs in the Titan Missile Silo that has become a museum to these silent warriors, who carried the unthinkable responsibility of waging nuclear war to keep us safe throughout last half of the 20th century. It was that might, and a belief in their willingness to use it, that stayed the hands of our enemies. God bless you all for the service and safety you gave to this nation.