Poem || Endlich by Christa Reinig

wall of stuff square(With translation)

In my previous student room I had a ‘wall of stuff’ that, among many other things, held the following poem. I didn’t even remember where I got it from or who wrote the poem (maybe it’s a rebellion against student life where I have to reference ALL the things). It popped into my head this morning as I was eating breakfast, so I figured I would do some research.

endlich entschloß sich niemand
und niemand klopfte
und niemand sprang auf
und niemand öffnete
und da stand niemand
und niemand trat ein
und niemand sprach: willkomm
und niemand antwortete: endlich

I translated the poem into English for you. Please note that in the German original the first and last word of the poem are the same. In English the words have a slightly different meaning, so I decided to separate the two. Have a look, what do you think?

in the end no one decided
and no one knocked
and no one jumped up
and no one opened
and there stood no one
and no one entered
and no one said: welcome
and no one answered: at last

Christa Reinig is known for writing quite simple, but also quite brash, life-challenging poetry. This poem uses only 16 different words, but is almost a short story in itself. For me, its strength not only lies in its repetitiveness but also in how relatable a feeling it conveys. It is a love story that never happened, a happy ending in reverse.

 Which Gender?

This poem is usually thought of as portraying a male-female relationship, due to its place within Reinig’s oevre. Reinig also wrote some short stories, most of them about women living without men. Because they are so explicitly absent, men are often thought to be at the centre of Reinig’s work. This absence is prominent in ‘Endlich’ as well. No one decides, no one knocks. However, the people in the poem are gender neutral. Though published before Reinig’s ‘coming out’ in 1970, ‘endlich’ might also be read as a poem about two men or two women. Ultimately, of course, it is a poem about no one.


reinig

Christa Reinig (1926-2008)

After the end of WWII, Reinig was one a ‘Trümmerfrau’, one of the women who helped rebuild Germany, often by taking on jobs that were formerly occupied by men. She began her writing career in East Berlin, but was later banned because she also published in West Germany. She was a feminist writer who wrote dark, satirical novels and poetry. In 1970 she came out as a lesbian. One of her most famous quotes is “I am a lesbian writer just as much as I am a woman writer”.

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