the bending of our gender words began early as a set of pines near coastal dunes—lithe with level roots, androgynously grown. a settlement of expansive sight, in which we caressed, buffeted by creaky singsong of der die das. cassettes of our childhood! i almost said boyhood. we were more whorls than girls, you twirled me until my needles kneaded veins, compact, compass. which way did they point. pee over there, or as far as you can, truth—a high arc in this pale-hipped, scantly lifted night. never-mind verandas, moss-soft as change is. you said this used to be a camp for young pioneers, another project to diminish differences, or to disguise them. neckerchiefs, knots, a different kind of tip-envy ruled there! my interior echo dates from this period. from this period, in our hands, all articles were political, der cup, die ladle, das beach towel, eins, zwei, drei. the things we hung to dry between trunks that grew askew, they always blew in line with the axis of the earth. even the wind pushed for direction, straightened them.
dune was substantial. a thing-word or classification sport, a group of puckering hillocks. for its jutting form some called it the main fort. and yet we had seen the sea make a leap towards it, not the other way around. but sandy slopes, beige like temples. here we lay, in march, cocooned in blankets, our first trip together. you’d left behind western hinterland, me: eastern, also birch trees, shivering pines through which we passed as childhood. now we sorted beach finds according to generic pleasure. some categories only contained one word: house, night, water, village, chalk. our wobbling piles, serenaded by grains of sand, which slide with them. wasn’t “dune” mainly a procedure, shared knowledge, a field? it wanders, you said, as a cushion. were we still lying on it, or merely on an idea of it, which you immediately perceived to be bolder, and I to be colder? our heads poked out from under the blanket as if to say, more nameless things were puckering within.
we looked for better ways to wrap what we said. we dared go closer to the shore, burying our bodies with our shoveling oars—water in hollows, chalk is the name of the knee of the queen. coastguards approached us, pitched adjectives as clunky roofed beach chairs: they were supposed to ban otherness, but our questions scattered along their walls, marooned inside. of a groggy kind. in the march sun. which grogged. you said: not all languages have beach chairs, some run this thing on verbs alone. volleyball player, beach flaneur, putting curl on it, girls are a cut above. a certain german poet-doctor wanted to discard all beach chairs, something about being static. it’s no skin off my nose, but a dose of seaweed inside it i couldn’t reach. it was time to refer to papua new guinea where all things come in fives: good, bad, big, small, other. but i didn’t get round to it. the good and small roared towards us, said boo, brought the end of the big sentence. our mouths were full of sand, and what we now dared ask was other, other, other, other, other, other, other, other, other, other.
—translated by Sophie Seita