Stay Shockable – And Fight Back!

This is my translation from the German of a poem by Peter Rühmkorf (1929-2008) The title and refrain were a bit tricky: the word I have translated as “shockable” is “erschütterbar” and is literally correct, but also has undertones of ‘shakeable’ and therefore ‘vulnerable,’ as well as ‘capable of being outraged’.

In any event, the warning is not to let our acquaintance with brutality and duplicity make us so jaded that we no longer react, and no longer bother to resist.

So I have also taken a liberty in adding a third “Stay shockable” at the end of the final stanza. This came about when I recently read the poem aloud to politically committed friends: it seemed right to redouble the exhortation (in these times…)

Stay Shockable – and Fight Back.

Peter Rühmkopf

So today: first, second and last shout
To all that’s been chased round and wrung out
Which I, though lowly, saw sway and crack
What’s empty tomorrow but yesterday was full:
Before your head is frozen to death, a bare skull:
Stay shockable – but fight back.
 
Those who fuck up our earth, water and air
(Forward march! Trust in god and the motor car)
Before they talk you round the houses and into a sack
To be stitched up, bought and sold
While you wait for the transmutation of puke into gold
Stay shockable – and fight back.
 
So sweet, how mortals stir themselves and start
Targeting coshes to the kidneys and the heart
So soon failed courage betrays love behind its back…
If you stand head bowed, others bowed will follow
(And then you won’t need to seek your sorrows
Everything you fear, now it all comes true -)
Stay shockable
Stay shockable – and fight back.
 
Fight back, all of you! Unpractised in victory;
Between Scylla here and there Charybdis
Is the swinging exchange rate of the Odyssey…
Darkness flows out after the rich and sweet
But when you and your comrades – go out and find them! –
Share the gloom, the danger will easily
And soon crack…
Stay shockable …
Stay shockable…
Stay shockable – but fight back.

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