Inge Bartsch / 12.04.21

In my free time I like to translate Polish poems (especially the ones I can’t find online in English). Translating poetry is part fun, part painful but I tried to do my best so my non-Polish friends could enjoy some Gałczyński.
Here is one of my favourites:


Inge Bartsch by Konstatny Illdefons Gałczyński (transl. Eva Bowan)


Inge Bartsch, actress, missing under mysterious circumstances after the overthrow.
Here’s a word about Inge Bartsch
in all simplicity
for posterity.
She was ginger, but not entirely – a certain shine ravaged the hair -
she lived with Fink. Fink the director. He communised due to snobbery.
(there are ones like that – on Mazowiecka street)
And Inge? Inge had that German taste to her,
that accent in the word “Mond” - the moon…der Mond, im Monde…
Fink was a fool. And blond.

A simple story: I just arrived from Poland
Berlin…Berliiiin…rain…
the iron Frederyk weighed down on my heart like indigestion…
Boredom – suddenly a miracle!
A theatre! A tiny heart found underground!
A song is playing: author: Kurt Tucholsky.


I see: Inge is sat at the piano,
singing and playing, ah, she must be so beautiful when she stands up!
She did. Her breasts were small, perfect.
and – excuse me ladies and gentlemen – her belly
traced so exquisitely under her dress
that I started clapping and shouting – Long live the belly!
until some English guy muttered – He’s gone mad.  – On zwariował.

Summer, autumn and winter have passed,
and then spring, and then again some kind of summer,
and again autumn with mists like smoke.
(and autumn, I am fond of)
Then suddenly one day
a coup. Coup d’etat.
n.b. A coup had in itself something of a Bethlehem Star,
followed by 3 000 000 magicians.
And everything happened just like on stage:
I sat with Inge in Tiergarten,
and autumn in Berlin, in Tiergarten,
pulls, ladies and gentlemen, such strings…
Trees emitted dusty fog
wind as low as bass -
and then Inge – Wiffen Sie waf?
(She really had a certain something in her voice or her teeth.)
Wissen Sie was?
I got bored of life.

- Hm…
I looked up at her, puffing a cigarette -
I’m no Wyspiański but after all
that phrase moved me.

Too late: The revolver wasn’t bigger than a rose:
Puff! And Inge started her voyages
to Au-delà, to German metaphysics.
A fat man drinking his beer
didn’t even move or get surprised
because such puff! not more than a child could’ve killed itself.

Then she had an even longer eyelash;
the corpse smelled of autumn, coffee, mushrooms and nonsense.

Bartsch Inge!
Such Shame!
Your talent could’ve been a lot of sterlings.
Inge Bartsch!!!

I returned to the hotel.
40 cigarettes in one night – the room blackened from the smoke…
No, it can’t be like that: it’s too simple: boredom,
we need to, if I may say so myself,
stick some commentary here -
that, I don’t know, the bloody crime of the regime,
that, suspected of semitism,
that…carrot…rotten…in a camp…
It will be an excellent 300 verse article.
(In Poland known as “mare”)

Let’s say it was in autumn,
maybe 3 years ago,
and if the editor doesn’t change it,
it will go something like this:
“She couldn’t bear the muggy arms of the system
Inge Bartsch, actress, missing under mysterious circumstances after the overthrow….”

Then at the end maybe something from Rilke
something about love,
about loneliness,
and a simple title: Inge Bartsch.

Such shame.
Pretty.
Young.
The back like Persian silk.

And she had that something…
feminine,
intangible,
distant,
something, that needs to be held on to.

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