Issue 24: Rodney Relax


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.

Copyright © 2020 by Rodney Relax, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.