Without a home

Recently I discovered the work of Hans Bötticher (1883-1934), who wrote under the pen-name Joachim Ringelnatz. Although for much of his life he worked as a kabarettist – a sort of satirical stand-up comedian, creating a bawdy mariner character called Kuttel Daddeldu – what remains of his work these days are numerous poems and a small body of paintings and drawings.

His poems are strange and witty, often bordering on the absurd. There was Once a Boomerang, for example, goes like this: The boomerang’s design was wrong -/ Just a little bit too long./ Off it flew on maiden flight/ And promptly disappeared from sight./ Spectators lingered with concern/ For hours, awaiting its return.

When I read the poem below it begged me to illustrate it, to which I generously agreed. If you can read the German version please do, as I feel the English translation makes too many concessions to the rhyme scheme. Of course the ending also has to be different because guinea pigs in German are known as sea pigs, even though they live on the grassy plains of South America (but they were brought across the sea to Europe, hence the name).

Ringelnatz blog

Heimatlose (A4, ink, 2016)


Ich bin fast

Gestorben vor Schreck:

In dem Haus, wo ich zu Gast

War, im Versteck,

Bewegte sich,

Regte sich

Plötzlich hinter einem Brett

In einem Kasten neben dem Klosett,

Ohne Beinchen,

Stumm, fremd und nett

Ein Meerschweinchen.

Sah mich bange an,

Sah mich lange an,

Sann wohl hin und sann her,

Wagte sich

Dann heran

Und fragte mich:

“Wo ist das Meer?”


Homeless (Translated by David Cram)

I thought that I would die

From fright

There was I

In someone’s guest-room late at night

And suddenly I heard

A clunk

As something stirred

Behind a trunk

Beside the toilet door

And there I saw

A thingamajig

A guinea pig.

It eyed me worriedly

But unhurriedly.

And then it neared my bed

And in a tiny, tinny

Voice it said:

“Which way is Guinea?”

The model for my guinea pig was one of the fine, noble creatures described in The Pawsey Piggy Troupe blog.


19 thoughts on “Without a home

  1. This is just delightful! The drawing captures the tone of the poem I think. I am so glad that you have conversations with poems and that that you heed their requests. What an enchanting way to read verse. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks for the german version, my english isn’t good enough for Ringelnatz. Until today I didn’t even know his real name but some of his funny and not always funny poems. The guinea pig is soooo cute!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hmm. I think if I found a guinea pig that imposing in my bedroom, I would ask if he would like my pillow, my blanket and/or my bed- though I am sure he and Hubble would have an interesting exchange-This is delightful Michael!

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s