I thought I was preparing to sit down to write a blog post about writing, but first I had to meet a friend in the Media Markt to drop off the key to the apartment where I’ve been cat sitting between Christmas feasts. This Media Markt is located in a shopping center in Berlin-Neukoelln, the neighborhood that might offer the most insight into what gentrification looks like in 2013 in Germany. My friend, surrounded by glittering cases of DVDs and CDs, had apparently chosen her destination wisely. The desperate post-Christmas sales were on, and the sidewalk in front of the Arkaden was swarmed. I stepped into the crowd of Neukoellners. So did a man who looked homeless. The man who looked homeless was pulled aside by two policemen who told him this wasn’t the place for him. He started yelling. One of his interlocutors looked unmoved and professional. One laughed. The man kept protesting, but he would not be coming inside. I was swept in with the families and teenagers and young singles who looked to be probable customers.
“Do shrimps make good mothers? Yes, they do.” This is such a weird line. It feels like the turn in a sonnet that isn’t a sonnet, more specifically known as Denise Riley’s “A Misremembered Lyric.” After some very human and fretful missing/not-missing of a thing, this line comes as a complete interruption, a pause and pivot in the work of losing and forgetting and their opposites. I don’t want to work out a reading of the poem here, to worry the line and test what it’s doing. For this post, I just want to point out that a quick Facebook message to a marine biologist who almost wrote a dissertation on shrimp sociality will reveal that “there are thousands(!) of shrimp species, and each have evolved varying degrees of parental care. This can range from laying eggs and moving on with life, to living in a multigenerational colony.” So, now we deduce that if “shrimps” make good mothers then all species must make good mothers insofar as they survive?
* Kristie Kachler *
I’ve been learning German off and on for almost two years now, and sometimes the language seems to have batted its pretty eyes at me and turned away. Like any doomed pairing worth its salt, we share an irreconcilable incompatibility: I’m precise when precision is important, but at a point I leave stray details alone so that I can read and sleep and stuff. Unfortunately, German requires its learners to be always on duty with an unerring, unflagging attention to detail. The grammar is so involved that I’ve started to suspect you have to practice it from birth to have any hope of mastering it. Strictures of word order plague beginners whose verbs are always burning off like fog before the end of a relative clause, while the chicaneries of declinations ensure that it’s almost impossible for even an advanced learner to string together, say, three perfectly accurate sentences. There’s probably a German proverb that speaks to the shame of overcomplicating a thing that could be simple, but no one has taught it to me yet. All the native speakers I know are too busy hin-ning and her-ring, heraus-ing and hinauf-ing away. To listen in on this is to entertain visions of the nimblest governess running to and fro in an Alpine wonderland, and then to admit that The Sound of Music made too deep an impression, and then to suspect an impending seizure if you have to listen much longer.
* Kristie Kachler * I say I’ve lost so much and you imagine something awful, but I just mean the boring things, the standard things. The first that comes to mind: shortly after we moved to Berlin my love bought me a pair of hand-knit gloves at a market. On the ride home I fell off my bike and wore a hole straight through the gray and purple-striped palm; I mended them, but they soon fell out of my pocket. A friend in the know mailed a replacement pair, but these I left in the U-Bahn. I didn’t lose the precious incense holder, almost paper thin and perfectly celadon, that I had bought as a student in Strasbourg, but my cat broke it. When I moved abroad the cat moved in with a friend who fell out of touch.