Friday, April 17, 2020

A 1960s Poem For These Times

Though personally I am not aggrieved or inconvenienced by the social distancing rules that are now in force across the country, I know that many people, unused to bountiful free time, find it hard to cope.

Thinking about those souls who find the lockdown trying,  a poem I read many years ago – back in the 1960s – came into my head, and struck me as being curiously appropriate to the situation of being stuck at home all the time.

It is called Summer With Monica by Roger McGough, a kind of love poem published in 1967.

Summer With Monica
by Roger McGough

They say the sun shone now and again
but it was generally cloudy
with far too much rain

they say babies were born
married couples made love,
often with each other
and people died
sometimes violently.

they say it was an average ordinary moderate
run-of-the-mill common or garden summer
but it wasn't

for I locked a yellow door
and I threw away the key.
and I spent summer with Monica
and she spent summer with me

unlike everybody else we made friends with the weather
most days the sun called and sprawled all over the place
or the wind blew in as breezily as ever
and ran his fingers through our hair
but usually it was the moon that kept us company

some days we thought about the seaside
and built sand castles on the blankets
and paddled in the pillows
or swam in the sink and played with shoals of dishes

other days we went for long walks around the table
and picnicked on the banks of the settee
or just sunbathed lazily in front of the fire
until the shilling set on the horizon.

we danced a lot that summer
bossanovaed by the bookcase
or maddisoned instead,
hulligullied by the oven
or twisted round the bed

at first we kept birds in a transistor box
to sing for us but sadly they died
we being too embraced in each other to feed them.
but it didn't really matter because
we made love songs with our bodies
I became the words
and she put me to music

they say it was just like any other summer
but it wasn't
for we had love and each other
and the moon for company
when I spent summer with Monica
and Monica spent summer with me.

In October when winter the lodger the sod
came a knocking at our door I set in a store of biscuits and whiskey
you filled the hot water bottle with tears
and we went to bed until spring

in April we arose warm and smelling of morning
we kissed the sleep from each other's eyes
and went out into the world
and now summer is here again regular as the rent man
but our lives are now more ordered more arranged
the kissing wildly carefree times have changed

we no longer stroll along the beaches of the bed
or snuggle in the long grass of the carpets
the room no longer a world for makebelieving in
but a ceiling and four walls that are for living in

we no longer eat our dinner holding hands
or neck in the back stalls of the television
the room no longer a place for hideandseeking in
but a container that we use for eat and sleeping in

our love has become as comfortable as the jeans you lounge about in
as my old green coat
as necessary as the change you get from the milkman
for a five pound note

our love has become as nice as a cup of tea in bed
as simple as something the baby said
Monica the sky is blue the leaves are green
the birds are singing
the bells are ringing for me and my gal
the sun's as big as an ice cream factory
the corn is as high as an elephant's
I could go on for hours about the
beautiful weather we're having
but Monica,
they don't make summers like they used to…

Roger McGough was part of a trio of Liverpool poets popular back in the 1960s. I have a copy of Penguin Modern Poets #10, The Mersey Sound featuring a selection of poems by Adrian Henri, Roger McGough and Brian Patten in my personal library.

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