This poem was built from William L. Shirer's broadcasts in Berlin and the dramatization World on Fire.


faded tired concrete
people don’t
seem to care/
give much these
days charity begins
at home they say,
so homeless people
are as welcome
on the streets
as socio-paths
in suicide vests
war zone refugees
are frowned upon
treated with suspicion
for we live
in a society
where foreign migrants
are bullied picked on
sometimes murdered


a beautiful girl
in the rain
Friday afternoon on
the bus squawking
children single mums
dads in jail
junkies off the phone
black teeth Messiahs
on the single decker
going up the bridges
the broken masses
blinking from the
lights blood on
the tracks as the
beautiful girl disappears
down the boulevard

December 1939 in
Germany -


families who have
lost relatives in
the conflict -
a good many
of them now
talk of the
person concerned not
as having been
killed in action
but of having
died from his
wounds in a
hero’s death, how
many only sons
were there that
fell on September
20 in the
battle aged 25?


the English think
they’re Rome and
we are Carthage
you remember how
this great naval
and commercial power
of the ancient world
was utterly destroyed
by Skipio’s legions
against Hannibal at
Zama AD 202
in the Punic wars

(a speech from Berlin)

a woman would
brush her hair in
the morning before
leaving for work
all of her
loose strands would
be placed in
a sealed bag
handed in for
be made into felt


troops are mobilised
for an assault on
the Netherlands, silk
stockings are a girls
luxury only available
on the black market
mens suits are
to be regular
strictly no designer
jackets Hugo Boss
can only be
worn by a
high ranking official

Munich has no
streets lights Stuttgart
neighbourhoods are silent
after dark there are
curfews in every town


short-wave stations
blanket the earth
24hrs a day
with their powerful
transmitters -

enlisted in their
service none other
than Mr Bernard Shaw
the most recent of his
letters read by
a German speaker

sounded very good on
the Upper Rhine front


the newspapers are
beginning to timidly
run stories about
Christmas shopping, it
makes for sad reading
last night was
the first snowfall
a reminder that
winter had come
it would be
a hard winter
on the Western
Front there in
the SNOW


as the first
Christmas trees arrived
the people of
Berlin were preparing
for ‘Totensonntag’
Sunday of the dead
visiting the graves
of their relatives
they decorate them
with flowers and


good afternoon
this is Munich
the days are pretty
short here at
this time of
the year in
an hour it
will be dark

in their houses
they will be
singing ‘Stille Nacht’

stille nacht heilige nacht
alles schläft eynsam wacht


December 2018
in the UK -

leaving the EU
and the Euro it’s
a different war, hard
Brexit or soft Brexit

was rolled out in
November -
one by one
they will be made
to starve to death
the Christmas lights
have been turned on
here in Montrose
a sea swept
town n/r
Dundee in early
December trading
in oil gas and
heroin it is also
the sight of the
harbour battle between
the Jacobites and
the English Navy
in 1746/the cured
Salmon is still a
popular cuisine in
this little town of
gable-enders Winters
new gold dreams on
California street -
this is where
the Scottish poet
Hugh MacDiarmid
lived and worked
as a journalist
on the Montrose
Review where amongst
his many devices
invented a synthetic
Scots language but
he was no
European or Internationalist
unlike like the
Glaswegian poet
Tom Leonard who
forged new dialogues
with terse narratives
full of tender beauty

‘in thi biginnin
wuz thi wurd’


this poem was
built from CBS
broadcasts in Berlin
during the first
year of WWII
comparing notes with
a work colleague
with his wry comments
on Fascism and
modern capitalism a
shrewd mind mixing
healthy cynicism with
a sense of humour
that is so
rare in modern
life these days


‘deep in the snaw’

these final stanzas
are like the wrapping
paper torn open
from the heart
of the nation

Noel! Noel!

last Christmas we
paid our taxes
gave you our
votes in the
ballot box some
of us went on
marches or hid
behind our intrigues
in our cluttered
less fluid personal
lives we judge
ourselves not as
others see us, it
was a lovely
light on people’s
faces on Princes
street this afternoon


what about the baby?
you know about the baby
about the baby
what about the baby?
no not our Tom
surely not our Tom
it can’t be. . .


[Rodney Relax has lived and worked in Edinburgh since 1992. He co-founded The Yellow Cafe a poetry/music event with Jonathan Harker (1994-2007). His pamphlet Cubitt, if Cubitt Knew was published by Whirlpool Press in 2011. He was co-founder of poetry duo ShellSuit Massacre with nicky melville, and then Northern Upland Sheep Strategy with musician Martin O’ Donnell. Rodney is currently working with visual artist SPK as Second Space, which works with poets/artists to create videos incorporating the themes of their poetry/music. There are currently #22 videos on the Second Space Youtube channel. This year may see the appearance of a Rodney Relax vinyl LP. ]

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