Celestial Mechanics

Katrien De Blauwer

There is a movement, as in circles of a purgatory, from the detective to the monk. It is both a natural progression, but also a spiritual progression involving certain practices using a series of ropes and strings. The movement, which might be understood as a progression, or even an ascension, requires the proper movement of these ropes and strings involving the dexterity and coordination of an athlete combined with the precision and vision of a craftsman. The detective learns to identify clues and to collect them. He begins organizing them, using the ropes, tying one to another in an appropriate sequence to create a tool, like a net that may slowly hold all of the clues. It will account for them, that is why the order and sense must be present, leaving no space too large for things to fall through or too small for things to become pinched.

When I fell in love it was by the ocean, but not in a warm place. There were trees and moss and grey weathered decking. I was doing simple tasks with my hands like crocheting and making nets. In order to make nets one must tie a serious of knots and connect them. Like a wall with images and names, bits of button or cloth pinned up in clear plastic sleeves or bags, old hairnets and cigar boxes, an ashtray from a rest stop in Alabama – all clues that a detective collects and then connects with marker or pieces of red string, connecting until something comes together that can be used to catch other things. To hold other things. Maybe fish. A shape of time.

The future, it is like pure spirit, no encumbrances like body, pressing down and deforming the truth.  The good detective, the one on the ascending path, has learned that eye witness testimony is either unreliable or exactly as true as anything else in the past, meaning not nearly as true as the future. It is this realization, among others, that incites the detective to ascend towards the monk. Moving from a series of clues that reveal a story to no clues, pure story. There is no language in the future, language has always been the currency of falsehood.

The detective moves towards the monk. The  ropes once used for tying nets are now just turned and turned, no knots.  He begins to learn his witnesses cannot be trusted, perhaps through malice, but more often by nature.  As with making nets by the ocean, double dutch moves ropes in a rhythm, but unlike the detective, who ties the series of knots, who closes the loop to contain things, the double dutch ropes keep moving. They are never tied off; they never stop. This is why the detective introduces (again) double dutch to New York City. I will go there.

When you sense what is invisible, or what is different than you sensed before, a different kind of substance, it may be considered an illness. Like deafness or blindness, a diminution of certain senses that allows others, now enhanced, to come to the forefront. This substance that I sense is between the other stuff. Between the people and the words and the chairs.  It is what lets the double dutch jumpers know the moment to jump into the swinging ropes, it is not only where the ropes are but where they aren’t and this is never static, so what is it they are waiting for? What are they accustoming themselves to as they rock back and forth judging the moment. Sensing the moment. Falling in love. Sensing the movement of space and substance and accommodating oneself to that rhythm, first inside feeling that particular fullness and lacking that is that other person. It is a rhythm that you must match before you can jump in. It feels good to be home in that way, to find a movement that is yours, even if it looks different than you thought it might.

I started seeing things differently. Only the word seeing no longer seemed like the correct word. I have heard people talk about the spaces in between things. The illusory spaces and the idea that even in what we think of as discrete bodies there is more space than substance. In this way people can imagine the physicality of interconnectedness, as well of course as disconnectedness. I’m afraid once I invoke the language of the space-in-between, it concedes too much to the concept that there is in-between, somehow as primary, or in-fact. As if the point were made by banging a hand on a wooden table, only further confusing the issue by emphasizing the wrong senses, materiality, violence, the concrete.

I watch the girls playing double dutch. Two swing the ropes, connected not through ropes but through rhythm. And the one girl readying to jump in. She rocks back and forth, one might say waiting for her moment. She is not waiting. She is preparing. She is becoming part of the rhythm, taking on some part of the motion and adding her own.

I am seeing the rhythms that are entered into. The ones that match our own, so we can most easily move with and through them. It is seeing what isn’t there. It is learning to see what is not visible, like background. Like female.

I drove the white van into the white compact Honda in the bright sunlight as if I were dreaming, or had known all of this before.

You were with me in the passenger seat and I knew, as you did, that you were impervious to automobile accidents, perhaps because you were already dead, but so was I, I just didn’t know it yet. We were breaking up, which felt more difficult than dying. I felt as though I were trying to convince you to stay close by until I actually died, it would be soon.

The streets were so beautiful that day, sunny and treelined with red bricks and houses nestled together. They had been there for a long time and one could tell because the landscaping was lush and mature. Perhaps there was something about the proportions and the scale of houses to houses and houses to streets and pathways that suggested it had not been built for automobiles, although there was no particular problem accommodating them now.  There is something about the sun in my eyes that changes the state of things, from waking to sleep or from life to death.

The officers came to pull me out of the car. I felt as though I would be fine to walk, although my legs felt weak and I knew that even if I could walk it did not signify living or dying. You were already out of the car, organizing things. The white Honda that had driven towards and into the front of my white van was apparently driven by someone who was already dead. The officer said there was a dead man in the car, but that he had already died before the accident, implying perhaps that his being dead was the cause of the accident.

I heard many birds, the way I like to, and I waited for what came next.

You Be Me

I will practice replacing girls with other girls. With moving them into the background. All of them, so there is nothing to be distinguished between a landscape and a swath of hair. The hills around my house and the back of an animal.

A puppet theater in the bathtub: two twins moving back and forth between personalities with a simple incantation “you be me.” And then to switch, “ok, now you be me.” Mimicking each others speech and manner. Telling one another’s story. Becoming one another like jumping rope double dutch style.

Just the body sitting in for another body, learning to speak the language.

“We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about
us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us.
We are set down in life as in the element to which we best
correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of
years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we
hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be
distinguished from all that surrounds us. We have no reason to
mistrust our world, for it is not against us. Has it terrors,
they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us;
are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we
arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us
that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now
still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust
and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those
ancient myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into
princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses
who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave. Perhaps
everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless
that wants help from us. ”


I don’t know how we made friends into enemies and I don’t know that we were a we.

We kept going to something like the same dinner party over and over again. I remembered getting to the hallway with the four black apartment doors, each with its own brass numbers. His was to the far left and hers was the third and each was similar inside, but different. His was much larger, but he didn’t know the square footage. It was open like a loft space with large industrial windows opening out onto an industrial part of the city. I was nervous being there every time, because every time was the same first time and I did not feel quite welcome and even if we were in his apartment there was the uneasiness about hers next door, or was it the reverse of that?

I carried my red jacket, the cream-colored striped lining was torn, but then there seemed to be two identical jackets and I wondered if I had stolen someone else’s from the dinner party, or if one had peeled into two, as if by replication. I looked more closely and one appeared to be slightly darker in color and after inspecting the labels I saw that one was marked with the size “s” for small and the other with “xm” for an extra-medium. I decided they were both mine and kept them, although I kept them folded together so no one would notice there were two.

Everytime we sat to eat we would discuss things, but over time we became more like enemies through this process. I excused myself from the table.


DREAMLIFE: A collection of women’s dreams, recorded and then translated here as part of the Female Background metabolism. A way in, a way out.


I gave birth to a son, small like a baby. He began to gesture to me in signs and a verbal language of his own and I slowly came to suspect that he was keeping something from me, this newborn with language. And filled with love I looked at him and asked, albeit cautiously: “You can speak?” He nodded and told me, using English words, as if his previous communications were only to dissemble the miraculous truth: he had been born fully conscious. As this became more clear, he grew into a brown-haired, blue-eyed boy and just as quickly into a man all before he could nurse or be held like the newborn he was. In virtue of this other-worldly transformation, this miraculous incarnation, I asked him about his care. Did a grown man who was newly born nurse from his mother? Indeed. He saddened as he explained that this miracle could turn dark, there could be a reversion to some undone state and breast milk was a feature of resistance to the curse.