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.

On non-Independence Day, for Camp Stupid in Court, an anthem.

To be sung:

Camp Stupid.

We are the vanguard of the Yes campaign,
Never beaten come snow wind and rain,
We’ve got no brains we’ve got no sense
We live in trailers and in tents
We are all booted and shell-suited
We are the Scot Nats at Camp Stupid

The bleak midwinter’s getting bleaker
No-one sees us attention seekers
We’re the heroism that we hanker
As Rick doesn’t say to Ilsa in Casablanca
Here’s looking at me – not at you, kid
We all love ourselves at Camp Stupid

We are a clan of a friendly sort
Using Holyrood Park for outdoor sport
We can get close up and toasty
In a sleeping bag nice and cosy
Tommy says it’s even better than Cupid’s
Let’s get it on at Camp Stupid

Get used to us, we’re going  to stay
Ignored here till independence day
And our job is not going  to  be done
Till damned Eck’s rocks melt in the sun
We’ll get what we want just by getting drookit
We‘re a monument to idiocy – we’re Camp Stupid

© Peter Russell 2016

By Order (based on 34 years experience as local government officer.)

(with apologies to Leon Rosselson)

Keep off the grass,

No litter, No bottles
No cycling, no scooters
No dogs, No horses or ponies
No alcohol, No picnics, No smoking, No spitting
No motor vehicles, No motor cycles or mopeds
No burger vans, No ice cream vendors
Only food from authorised vendors may be consumed.

No skating, No skateboards
No organised games, No ball games, No running
No professional trainers or fitness classes
No sunbathing, No nudity

No loitering, no soliciting, no importuning

No swimming or fishing in the boating lake
No unauthorised boats in the boating lake
No portable stereos or beatboxes
No musical instruments, No transistor radios
No fires, No fireworks, No camping
No model aircraft, No Frisbees or Boomerangs
No unaccompanied children
No prams, no pushchairs, no buggies

Remember at all times this is public property.

© Peter Russell 2016

The Night They Buried Labour

They dug up John Smith and Clement Attlee
Bevan, Barbara Castle and John Wheatley  –
They put their  heads on pikes to mock
On the night they buried Labour

They buried the Levellers and Chartists
The Diggers and Tolpuddle Martyrs
They burned the radical history books
On the night they buried Labour

They buried the General Strikers
The steel workers,  dockers  and miners
They gagged the trades unions workers’ voice
On the night they buried Labour

They buried the Rochdale Pioneers and shops they made
The dividend, honest measures and fair trade –
They looted and burnt down the co-op stores
On the night they buried Labour

The nationalists laid the body in its grave
And grinning Tories sold them the spade –
They robbed the corpse and stole its clothes
On the night they buried Labour

They buried our past comrades good and true
And with them the bond between me and you –
They strangled solidarity with a saltire
On the night they buried Labour

They trampled on the red flag and set it alight
But we’ll not stay down without a fight –
Because unity is always strength
Even though they’ve buried Labour

They can’t bury the NHS and Welfare state
Council houses, Minimum Wage and equal work for equal rates
As long as we achieve more together than alone
They’ll not yet have buried Labour.

Poem For National Poetry Day.

Chania 2015.

(For Rudi and Hildegund)

Under the

Moon                   in a

Greek                  taverna, part of a

Turkish                house, in a

Venetian             city, with an

Arabic                  name, ruled centuries-long by the

Ottoman              Empire, outside the

Jewish                  synagogue, by the café bombed roofless by

British                   aircraft in the

German               invasion of May 41, we dine, one of us

English                 and one of us

Scottish                with our best friends from

Bavaria,                to dance, drink and laugh in a

Realm                   of human joy and do our bit to repair a

Universe               of damage done by

Nations                 created by man and

Borders                 which are after all invisible from the


© Peter Russell 2015

Prize winning Poem – 40 Hours In Hell

40 Hours In Hell.

It’s Friday night, it’s the end of a week
In an inferno of rivets and sockets
It’s pay day tonight and it’s heaven we seek
With the wages of hell in our pockets

The pay packet’s more than the worker’s price
It’s all under God that’s true
A weekend pass to paradise
On a ticket from Kalamazoo

But wages won’t deliver us from evil
They’re fruit on the serpent’s tree
Because all foremen and bosses are devils
Tempters who tell us we’re free

Aye, we’re free to ruin our bodies and eyesight
We’re free to break our sore backs
We’re free to be told we’ve got no rights
And free to strike and be sacked

So when Friday comes and the hooter’s drone swells
And the gates swing wide in reprieve
We’re men who’ve done forty hours in hell
Yon Dante could never conceive

Friday night’s heaven’s a haircut and a pint
Saturday’s the game and a glass
Then a dance, a drink, a winch and a fight
And Sunday’s a hungover Mass

Next day at seven and it’s the hooter now warning
We’re late for the clocking-in bell
Inside the gates, it’s good Monday morning
To the next forty hours in hell.

© Peter Russell 2015