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International Socialism, Summer 1967


Roger McGough

Another Poem


From International Socialism (1st series), No. 29, Summer 1967, p. 30.
Thanks to Ted Crawford & the late Will Fancy.
Marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


3. Sandbags

This time you’ve gone too far
I said,
This time it’s war
and all you did was walk away
laughing sandbags.

some nights
when I’ve had a few
I ask the world
to take off its coat
and step outside
Luckily for you
it’s always chickened out.

Reading too much Sartre I suppose
or Kafka, or one of those
Newwave novelists we hear so much about,
but I was sitting in a train
looking through the window
at the moving rural tableaux
when suddenly I could feel
that out there it wasn’t real
Perhaps the country-side didn’t exist.

Didn’t exist, that is, outside of photographs
in the Guardian and women’s magazines
cinemas and other means
of mass communication.
I think I once saw a farmer on television
but he could have been an actor
and a boy at school used to say
that he’d actually driven a tractor
but he also said
he’d been to bed
with the art mistress
so nobody believed him anyway


I could see now that the trees weren’t right
all too straight and the leaves too bright
The rivers too blue and the grass too green
Skies like those are never seen
in real life
And of course I need hardly mention
no-one moved all at attention
Toy figures dressed like us
waiting for a dinky bus
model cars of chrome and steel
through the window looked quite real
but I knew different
Roads and villages far too clean
made of plastic or plasticene
Sheep, horses, cows all look
just as they do in a farmyard book
all that is
except one,
a cow.

To that cow I owe a debt
Just a plain brown cow and yet
it jolted me
into reality
The countryside it does exist
Now I’m not existentialist
For I saw the folly
of my philosophical state
when the cow began to urinate
To think I owe my sanity to a timely bovine pee.

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