The Summer the Thunders Came

By Becki Groves

It wasn’t summer; I’ll preface this with that.
It felt like it, certainly,
a March heatwave merging into April,
folding into May,
the concept of time all but forgotten.
It wasn’t summer.

We started too late; I’ll say that.
Nobody will admit it, though;
in years to come they will say
the government
did everything they could.
They always do.

It was always the same day: same time.
I’ll remember Thursday evenings for this;
a nationwide crackle, breaking the silence,
starting at one house until the whole country was alive
for the first time in weeks, months.
A sound like desert rain.

8pm meant a pause; no games, no shows, no dinner.
We’d gotten good, by then,
at occupying ourselves, young and old alike,
at keeping in contact, family and friends apart,
messages Zooming through the air, invisible and so very vital.
But 8pm meant a pause.

We are the lucky ones, they tell us.
We do not martyr ourselves on a daily basis,
we save lives by staying home,
essentials only, an hour to walk;
run; cycle.
They tell us we are lucky.

I am not ungrateful, but it’s hard.
I remind myself daily that I am alive,
I am not alone in the world or in my house,
I am going to survive this,
even if I don’t want to.
I don’t really want to.

I have forgotten what it is like outside, in the real world.
Not literally, you understand;
I go out daily for an hour to see the trees
But I forget what is good and what is bad,
I cannot remember how to talk to people.
I’ve forgotten my mask.

You don’t realise how much you take a hug for granted until you can’t have one.
Hugs, you see, are specific to people;
some people give you big bear hugs, make you feel warm,
some people squeeze all the bad away,
and you need your eight-a-day.
I just want a hug.

Despite everything, there is a rush to get back.
Back to normal, or whatever normal even is anymore,
back to school, back to work,
back to 9-5 and drinks down the pub,
even though the world is not ready for that.
But the economy demands it.

It’s a strange world we live in.
You would think, given everything,
that we would listen to the scientists, the doctors,
not someone with a 2:1 in Classics,
who once got stuck on a zipline.
It’s a strange world we live in.

I think of the children a lot.
Teddybears and rainbows in windows,
chalk obstacle courses and messages on the pavements,
school at home, Mum and Dad teaching
mathematics and diction.
The new norm.

It wasn’t summer; I’ll preface this with that.
Not when it started, anyway,
but the thunder came weekly, cracking the dry silence
of a country in mourning for a social life
and people we don’t know.
It wasn’t summer.

My name is Becki Groves. I come from Cambridge, UK, and am an autistic dancer who occasionally dabbles in poetry when movement can’t succinctly help me explain my thoughts.

I wrote The Summer the Thunders Came back in May during an online lecture. I dealt with the anxiety of online teaching by reading and writing a lot of poetry during online lectures in those few months of the last semester when the university was still figuring out how to work it and every class was a different format. Poetry grounded me amongst weeks of change and has continued to do so into the struggles that have befallen me since. 

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