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the noise of time

   i suppose most people know that when i come to a place i have
a bit of difficulty trying to say precisely what i'm going to be
doing so i dont start with large introductions but as usual
ive got a number of things on my mind when i go places and i think
about them out loud in public and because what i'm doing is
entertaining ideas not people i'm quite happy for people to
feel free to get up and leave whenever they stop finding this
entertaining and thats how i know i'm a poet not an entertainer
    though on several occasions people have compared me to
entertainers like lenny bruce but thats not what i'm like
   i'm not very much like lenny bruce if i'm an entertainer
at all
    i admire lenny bruce and have great respect for what he did
    but lenny bruce worked in clubs where he had to take on drunks
and coax and coerce them into thinking about something more than
getting laid while he kept them from getting out of the chair and
hitting him or running away the difficulty is that he's there
in that space where he's got to be entertaining even when he
doesnt want to be in my case i always imagine i should put a
sign over the door that reads ABANDON HOPE ALL YE WHO ENTER HERE
   so that we could begin in a reasonable conversational way
   now recently ive been in a kind of conversation with a number
of young artists    and what weve been trying to figure out is
what is a good way to think and talk about art and it seems
that art has recently been accused of having ideas
                         i know theres
also a large contingent of people for whom art has no relation to
ideas and exists only to express emotions but that idea is so
stupid its hardly worth thinking about at all
    at the same time there are very serious and intelligent
people who see an artwork as a container for ideas something
like a suitcase or a blackboard on which the artist has
inscribed in a more or less idiosyncratic script a message they
could read out once theyve deciphered the handwriting so they
study the handwriting and when they think theyve got it figured
out they declare that this artwork says this and thinks that
   and they arrive at this notion because they believe that
artists as relatively intelligent people having intentions and
opinions declare them in their artworks like a traveler passing
through customs
    i realized i'd never thought about artworks this way and i
wondered whether or not it was at all reasonable to think so
   and around this time i happened to read something that made
me think of this idea again i'd picked up a copy of the nation
in the bathroom     we keep our copies of the nation in the
bathroom its a magazine we like to read when we're otherwise
occupied because it has amusing political conversation though
its otherwise totally absurd but it also has one intelligent
person who writes about art a very cultivated and eloquent
    most of their other reviewers are worthless their film
reviewer is silly their literary reviewers are ridiculous
but they have an art writer named arthur danto who is an
educated and sympathetic critic of contemporary art and he was
writing a commentary on an exhibition by robert morris his
retrospective at the guggenheim morris is an old friend of
mine and as a result although i no longer like to write
formal art essays i had been persuaded to contribute an essay
to the catalog and because of currents of cliche in the
contemporary art world i realized this exhibition was going to
run into a generally unfriendly press so i was curious to see
what arthur had to say
   the essay was disappointing it was only mildly affected
by the negative currents of fashion but didnt get very far in
talking about morris at all but in the course of the essay
arthur quoted apparently with approval a statement from hegel
   from the esthetics a kind of sweeping statement you dont
usually find quoted in art reviews which made a remarkable
claim that an artwork is the embodiment of some truth
   now i'm not entirely sure what in this context would have
counted for hegel or for danto as a truth and i'm not sure
why we couldnt with equal confidence consider it the embodiment
of a lie for which theres a great classical tradition in all
those smooth bodied statues of young greeks and noble roman
emperors and all those paintings of complaisantly luscious
courtesans and handsome warriors but this doesnt really answer
the question of what an embodiment of either a truth or a lie
might really be
it seems to imply at the very least that an artwork can be
created as the physicalization of a very unphysical thing an
idea and while there may be some difficulty in deciding
exactly what an idea is the real problem i had with this claim
was that i wasnt really sure how an obdurate object like an art
work could be the physical manifestation of something as abstract
as an idea
   now my first thought was that christians might understand
this    for christians jesus figures as the embodiment of an
idea of god yet even for them this is a bit confusing because
sometimes jesus is shown exercising divine powers doing miracles
here and there casting out demons raising people from the
dead but at other times his body and even his spirit appear to
suffer all the pain and anguish of being human and abandoned on
the cross and of course jesus is no more like an artwork than
any other human being because his creation according to most
dogmatic accounts is effected by human though miraculous means
   and this has been confusing even to orthodox christian
theologians so it should be no surprise that personally i find
it totally absurd but interesting and up to now its been
the closest i'd ever come to understanding the notion of the
embodiment of an idea
   but of course i never really understood it i never
understood how anything as tangible as an artwork could embody
anything as intangible and singular as an idea or a concept or a
proposition or even a sequence of propositions though now
that i think of it   
       maybe i can imagine a kind of example
   something that comes close to it maybe an artwork thats
a kind of machine a machine has a sequence of parts that are
functionally related to each other like a series of propositions
   and you can follow them from part to part from an initial
supposition to a determined end like a mousetrap
   a mousetrap is a simple machine its simple and lethal
    its there to kill mice and it works in an elegant way
   it consists of four basic parts a base a killing engine
a bait platform and a restraining bar
   the base is simply a rectangular piece of wood the killing
engine is an assembly consisting of a rectangular loop of metal
wire anchored by one of the shorter legs to the center of the
wooden base where the short leg acts as an axle for a
spring thats slipped sleevelike around it pinning the opposite
short leg of the looped wire down to one end of the wooden base
   the restraining bar is a straight piece of metal wire
attached longitudinally by a loop at its end to a small metal hoop
anchored at the other end of the base and the bait platform
is a small cantilevered piece of plastic or metal mounted on an
axle situated toward the center of the wooden base and within the
pinned down wire loop in such a way that it can pivot up and
down like a seesaw
   for the machine to be set to work some peanut butter is
smeared on the bait platform the metal loop of the killing
engine is pulled back down to the other end of the wooden base and
pinned in place by the restraining bar the end of which is
laid over it and hooked under a projecting element of the near leg
of the cantilever elevating the bait smeared end of the
platform which is held in place by the restraining bar
under pressure from the spring exerted upon the short leg of the wire
loop that is reciprocally held down by the restraining bar
   all thats required for the machine to work is the mouse
   a mouse is drawn by the smell of the peanut butter approaches
the bait platform and tries tentatively to lick the butter in
doing so it rests its head lightly on the raised end of the bait
platform and this slight weight depresses the bait end of the
platform pushes up the other end of the seesaw and frees the
restraining bar which explodes upward releasing its downward
pressure on the wire loop that the spring slams down on the mouse
and breaks its neck in theory anyway and the theory is an
exercise in logic
   if the mouse is drawn to the bait it tries to eat it
   licking the peanut butter depresses the end of the bait
platform if this end of the cantilevered platform is
depressed the other end is elevated if that end is elevated the
restraining bar is released if the restraining bar is
released the spring driven wire loop is forced up and
explosively down onto the neck of the feasting mouse so the
mousetrap is a chain of successive implications embodying a
single truth desire leads to death at least from the point
of view of the mouse
   but even from that perspective there are some uncertainties
in the chain of implications first there is the question of
the bait i dont pretend to be a zoologist but ive conducted
numerous experiments and in my neighborhood there are two classes
of mice peanut butter mice and jelly mice peanut butter
mice have no desire for jelly and jelly mice have no desire for
peanut butter this will not affect the theory but no mouse
will come to the trap if i put out the wrong type of bait then
there is the question of dining style a fastidious mouse may
not rest its head upon the platform while delicately licking up
the peanut butter or jelly the platform will not be depressed
and the mouse will have its banquet in peace this might
suggest that the mousetrap embodies a quite different truth
like manners are a life and death matter or refinement
can save your life
   but there are other variables that affect the unfolding
logic of the mousetrap a clumsy mouse might jostle the wooden
base with its paw knocking the restraining bar loose and
springing the trap without ever entering it
                with the trap sprung
the mouse can feast at leisure the truth this suggests may be
   god looks out for fools sometimes
    but then there are still other variables we live in
california surrounded by geologic faults rock shelves move
along the fault plane the earth shrugs lightly and the
trap is sprung the truth no machine is fault free but
this truth is manifested only occasionally and then the
fault may be in me i may fix the restraining bar too firmly
under the bait platform and it may never spring or too loosely
and it springs almost immediately or the mouse is frightened and
moves quickly back so that only its paw is caught in the trap
and then i pick up the trap and set the wounded mouse free in the
canyon in back of the house
   but these are all practical imperfections that can occur in
the working of any machine and i suppose we have to look for
the idea the intention of the machine as embodied in its
form the way we look at a vito acconci kinetic sculpture which
rarely works but lets you figure out how it would work if all
other things were equal still theres nothing in an acconci
machine that suggests a logic as remorseless as a mousetrap
which unfolds like the plot of a story
   so i suppose if you imagine an artwork thats built like a
story but i cant think of many artworks that are very much
like a story and even in a story it is a serious question
whether the logic of its unfolding plot is the only or even the
main meaning of it but this chain of events seems to mirror a
sequence of purposes and actions intended to fulfill them and
this movement from an intention to an end seems too single minded
and purposeful for most artworks i know in fact i cant think
of many artworks aside from leni riefenstahls films and roman
imperial sculpture that are as goal oriented as this so maybe an
artwork is not at all like a mousetrap maybe it doesnt embody
any ideas at all maybe its more like a bowling ball that you
roll toward ideas you know the ideas are out there somewhere
   and you roll this bowling ball towards them and it knocks
over some of them and leaves other ideas standing or leaning
against each other    and i thought maybe thats the way it works
   and thats so wonderfully clear but i guess it depends on
what kind of bowler you are
   i think i should point out that ive bowled only twice in my
life and while i loved the setting i hated the sport half the
time my ball went down the gutter at the side of the alley and
missed all the pins but my incompetence aside maybe people
are less purposive when they make artworks and a bowling alley
is all purpose the pins are all stacked up neatly in front of
you and the alley leads straight to them you pick up the
ball and look right at the pins a bowling alley is all
intention how often have you ever seen a bowler pick up the
ball and roll it in another direction    
   now as an artist ive never felt so purposive that it seemed
i was looking down an alley at a bunch of ideas i wanted to knock
down     sometimes i felt like ideas were running in all directions
and some of them were running by me and i was tempted to stick
out my foot to see what might happen but it never felt as if i
was leaning forward so directly into my intention
   still there are ways in which an artwork can be addressed to
doing some particular thing formulating a paradox lets say
   that might be something like sticking your foot out into the
smooth flow of traffic
   but theres another way in which you could make an artwork
that would be something like the construction of a narrative
   a narrative not a story because i distinguish between
narratives and stories this is a distinction of which aristotle
and the french critical tradition as well as the american
folkloric tradition are all ignorant because all theyre
interested in is plot and as i see it a story is all about
a story is the representation of a series of events and parts
of events that result in a significant transformation its a
logical form but a narrative is a representation of the
confrontation of somebody who wants something with the threat and
or promise of a transformation that he or she struggles to bring
about or prevent or both these are two different cognitive
modalities addressed to the problems posed to us by time
   because time is measured by change and change destabilizes
all things especially human things because we're all
temporary steady state systems who like to have to think of
ourselves as stable in order to imagine ourselves as selves at all
   and theres only one philosopher i know whos thought about
narrative this way and thats paul ricoeur when he's in his
augustinian mode but then he falls back on aristotle and gets
too involved with plot and thats story not narrative from my
point of view
   because while narrative is usually encountered on the inside
of story the two modes do not require each other and each one
can appear pretty much alone there are stories without
narratives in every newspaper in the country a hurricane swung
inland and hit the the coast of florida once there was a
peaceful town called tallahassee and now its in ruins you lay
out the before and after with all the demographic and sociological
detail you like and youve got a story without a narrative and
there are narratives without stories plays like endgame or
waiting for godot or in a more extreme case the wraparound
paintings of rothkos houston chapel where the viewer can only
struggle to see the paintings on the walls in front of him and try
to relate them to the difficultly seen images of the paintings in
back of him that he's desperately trying to hold stable in his
mind while all of the paintings are subjected to changes in color
and figuration by minute variations in the natural lighting every
time a cloud passes overhead or to changes in the viewer who
would like to believe that hes not changing in spite of the near
inevitability of changes in his perceptual state and mood
occasioned by the duration of difficult viewing this is what
ricoeur saw as the center of narrative the human mind
confronting what he called the aporias the blind alleys of time
   but why do we want to represent it why does anybody
represent to himself or herself the struggle for and against
transformation and the answer may lie somewhere close to the
anxiety produced by the paradox that however much we are tempted
by transformation the beggar would always like to become a
king but this change courts the danger that the beggar could
be lost in the transformation and merely inherit the kings
troubles without any memory of the satisfaction of the obliterated
beggars desire or maybe it lies closer to the terror of
absolute erosion that can be forecast by even the most minute
changes in our lives
    so its the loss of experience that we're struggling
against and the loss of the self in the increasing
unintelligibility of our lives that is produced by time and
today i was walking in the mall and we went to a bookstore and i
bought a book that i was attracted to only by the title
   although its a beautiful book by a very good russian poet
named osip mandelstam its a book called the noise of time       
and the name resonated for me in a way that went beyond
mandelstams lovely essay of that name on the lost petersburg
of his childhood and got me started thinking about all these
   there was something in that name the noise of time that
fascinated me in a way i didnt think it was possible for
mandelstam to mean though what he meant by it wasnt entirely
clear even to clarence brown the excellent translator of the
book or rather brown sensed what it meant but wasnt quite
sure of the best way to translate it and in the introduction
he gives an elaborate description of the reason for his choice
of the noise of time from a great variety of alternatives
   the name mandelstam had given the essay in russian was shum
vremeni the second part is easy it means "of time" the
question is what exactly shum means if you look in a russian
dictionary it can mean the rustle of leaves the roar of the sea
   the pounding of the surf the buzzing in your ears the
clamor of a crowd the drumming of rain the racket of traffic
   or more neutrally the sound or noise of any of these
bundles of continuous repetitive percussive and abrasive events
the translator cites all of these and adds one more an
astonishing translation provided by vladimir nabokov in his weird
version of pushkins eugene onegin
             nabokov was a formidably
educated if eccentric linguist with a poets superb knowledge of
russian and the translation he offers for shum is "hubbub" in
what must be one of funniest lines ever to show up in a poem in
english "morns pleasant hubbub has awoken"
   only a comic genius like nabokov could have produced a line
like this where "awoken" is just about as funny as "hubbub"
   which he comments upon in a lengthy deadpan note that
provides not only an extensive consideration of the onomatopoetic
career of shum in all of its morphological forms but also an
almost equally wonderful line of pushkins containing the word
shum which he renders as "morns frisky hubbub has resounded"
   and "frisky" is almost as good but "resounded" cant compete
with "awoken" yet in spite of all these wonderful suggestions
   i think i can understand why clarence brown chose to go with
"the noise of time"
   clarence brown translated this work in 1963 or -64 just
about the time that works like claude shannons book on
communication theory became part of general culture this book
and many works like it extended the meaning of "noise" to entropy
   the growing disorder that affects all ordered systems over
time the frictional forces that reduce all directed energies
to forms of disorder sooner or later as we go from more orderly
universes to more disorderly universes given enough time
    working in the 60s brown must have sensed this though
he may not even have been aware of it when he made mandelstam
the gift of this brilliant new meaning of the word "noise"
    a meaning that mandelstam benefited from but couldnt
possibly have known or intended when he wrote the noise of time
in 1928 just ten years before he died in one of stalins prisons
   time does strange things to you its a bit like the ocean
   mostly it takes things away but it also casts things up on
the beach new things or old ones from different places now
looking very different every bit of disorder contributes to the
formation of a new order usually worse but sometimes better
   you lose a lot and you may win a few maybe in the end you
lose it all but meanwhile some disorder may be good for you
even if you dont know it
      i was sitting in oklahoma city in a diner having lunch
with leo steinberg and we were eating potato skins with two
different kinds of gravy because oklahoma citys cuisine is
distinguished by thirty kinds of gravy and very little else
   we had just given talks at the oklahoma city museum of
art a pretty little beaux arts building complete with porte
cochere which is perched perilously over an oil well that the
trustees periodically threaten to open up whenever theres a
shortfall in their operating funds or a sharp rise in oil prices
now leo is not only the most elegant art historian i know but
he is also distinguished in his profession by having the most
extraordinary admiration for artists maybe even an exaggerated
admiration for them and since he had just given a talk about
picasso an artist upon whose genius he had reflected
brilliantly for a very long time our conversation over potato
skins swung around to a more general discussion of the mysterious
sources of artistic genius which isnt a subject upon which i
ordinarily have much of an opinion
    but in the course of the conversation leo quoted a line of
shakespeares that he regarded as a distinctive mark of his poetic
genius and it was certainly a remarkable line and its
distinctive in many ways i think its from measure for measure
and it goes "his head sat so tickle on his shoulders that a
milkmaid might sigh it off an she had been in love" and its
a pretty sardonic comic line coming as it does at a dark
moment when the hero is in real danger of losing his life    
but what got leo was the word tickle
      "tickle tickle   nobody but a great poet could have
written that"
   up to then we were in agreement about it being a remarkable
line but at the word tickle we parted company i agreed it
was a pretty startling word and it stops you for a moment when you
read the line and shakespeare was a brilliant poet but he
was also a workmanlike if equally terrific playwright and it didnt
seem to me too likely he would expend his energy on inventing an
entirely new usage for a single word that could easily be
misheard in a line of a quickly written play somehow it didnt
seem too likely and somehow i felt that if he was a genius
    that wasnt the way his genius worked
    so i said "come on leo i dont really know but i bet there
were dozens of elizabethan uses of the word tickle
that simply meant unstable or precarious thatve just disappeared
    or maybe its a misprint for fickle or maybe its a
cognate with fickle but maybe its not maybe its just a
normal word used in the ordinary way you would refer to a ticklish
situation without suggesting the feeling of being rubbed lightly
under the arms
   but we didnt agree because for leo i think a great artist is
like an isolated mountain peak dominating the surrounding plain
   and for me a good artist has got to be very ordinary and a
great artist is just more ordinary than everybody else so we
left it at that but when i went back home i looked at the big
oxford english dictionary and sure enough i found a late
fifteenth century text that described rocks that stood so tickle
in a stream they rendered passage perilous because you could
fall and break your neck and i was about to write this to leo
   when i thought no i dont want to write this to leo why
should i do that the noise of time had drowned out all the
other ordinary uses of tickle and left shakespeares line alone
   a brilliant stone thrown up on the beach why should i take
this gift away
   so you dont know what time will do it can stick a feather
in your cap or take it away the feather may be blown out of
the tail of a pheasant caught in a whirlwind and land on your hat
but you never know whats going to happen
   still we struggle with time we try to come to terms
with its transformations that undermine our understanding of
our being because time is at war with being all the time
   and thinking of the separations of things the separations
of things effected by time i think of the way generations are
separated by time like my son who elly and i are very close
to he grew up as an art kid the kind of kid who was at
home with all kinds of art because he grew up with it     he's four
years old and we're driving along the freeway and he's getting
bored because we're talking to each other not to him and he's
sitting in the back seat suddenly he lets out a scream
   "look i'm chris burden" and dives head first into the front
seat between us    so i guess we brought him up the right way
   and he was not much older than that when we were once again
driving along the freeway through a beautiful natural landscape
and he spots a billboard with a wonderful mountain landscape
in it and he says "look theres a landscape in a landscape"
   so we had an art kid when he was four years old but now
he's thirty and he's running a think tank that advises people
with lots of money at stake on whether the lira or the deutschmark
or the kroner will rise or fall and he makes these predictions
on the basis of the political expertise he's been acquiring since
he was a kid since the days when he used to hang out at the
university library and study all the newspapers and elly and i had
to bring him back the local papers from wherever we went to do
readings or performances and he makes these predictions from a
certain sense of distance because although he's predicting
these outcomes for people who are profoundly interested in money
and passionately committed to profit he has relatively little
interest in profit and somewhat like an artist he's mainly
interested in the game
   so theres a separation of a sort     but a connection across
it and we come together in certain interests we share though
in different ways across a space that we understand     and it
remains a space though we can look across it
and one of the spaces we shared and looked across almost but
not quite together was the greater space separating him from
his grandfather ellys stepfather was a man of the nineteenth
century at least he was born in the nineteenth century a
hungarian poet and painter named peter moor whose real
hungarian name was barna joszef    whod taken the romantic name
moor after shakespeares moor of venice and my sons name is
blaise cendrars after the romantic name taken by a young swiss
boy on his way to becoming a great french poet so they had
something in common across a gap of about 70 years    
   and peter and blaise spent a lot of time together blaise
used to visit him regularly and play tennis with him     and its
not easy to play tennis with an eighty-eight year old guy who
has elegant strokes but moves somewhat slowly around the court
it takes more effort than playing a thirty year old because
when your eighty-eight year old partner hits a deft forehand into
your backhand corner you have to take it on the run and return
it with only moderate power to a point no more than one running
step away from him so that he can make a stylish return to keep
the rally going   for a sixteen year old blaise was very good at
this and at refraining from hitting a full power serve
   and he was also good at receiving lectures between games on
how to improve his backhand or forehand in the manner of borotra
or lacoste or henri cochet or other great stars of the distant
it was a little exasperating but blaise was good at it
because peter was very charming and could explain to him why kurt
vonnegut was too smart to be a truly great writer or tell him
stories about growing up in a small town in hungary before the
first world war about being on his schools gymnastics team and
about the little white peaches of kechkemet that were sweeter than
any he'd ever eaten for the rest of his life or about pre-war
budapest and the swimming pool of the hotel gellert with its
artificial waves and the famous candy shop with the most
voluptuous chocolates in all of europe but then he might also
talk to him about the excellences of the poetry of ady or of
hofmansthal or goethes faust and this was probably a little
less interesting for blaise who is a talented writer but has
no patience for nineteenth century poetry
   but between peter and blaise there was a real intimacy across
the space of 7000 miles and 70 years of experience that separated
1914 budapest from 1980s california an intimacy that may have
been as deep as the gap was wide blaise was sixteen and just
awakening into his sexuality and peter at eighty-eight could
look back from a waning physical being on a long history of
romantic attachments whose image burnt so much more brightly now
in the light of memory and unsatisfied desire now that the last
and longest of these attachments to eleanors mother a beautiful
woman even in her seventies had disappeared with her descent
into the abyss of alzheimers and one thing they probably
shared was a sense of sexual loneliness
    i dont really know what they talked about in all the time
they spent together but peter was the first person except
perhaps for blaises closest friend brett to learn of his first
real girl friend so i'm sure that peter remembering the
temptations and fears of his own distant adolescence must have
offered blaise a mix of chivalric encouragement and cautionary
tales from the experiences of his fin de siecle youth in one of
the great capitals of the hapsburg empire which is what he
must have meant when he said that he'd given blaise some "very
good advises" and whatever blaise made of these "advises" he
must have sensed through the intense nostalgia of these
schnitzlerian reminiscences the intensity of peters loneliness
and sexual longing
   an eighty-eight year old hungarian poet and painter who had
outlived his contemporaries now living in california surrounded
by people who couldnt speak his native language whose beautiful
and accomplished paintings could find no appreciative audience
because their time had passed without making him sufficiently
famous to preserve them a place in the history of either
hungarian or american art whose poems could really be
understood by no one he knew and blaise was the only one to
whom peter could comfortably confide in however masked a form the
desperation of his sexual desire and all blaise could do was
   but peters birthday was coming up and blaise wanted to
get him a present he knew that fairly soon he would be going
away to college and he wouldnt be able to see peter quite as
often and wanted to get him something very special he talked
this over with his friend brett and at length they came to a
decision the two sixteen year olds decided to find him a hooker
   now i only heard of this many years later from someone who
wasnt there either but as i understand it this is what happened
   they took bretts parents great red cherokee and cruised
slowly through san diegos gaslight district looking for a hooker
   their plan was to find a girl in miniskirt and boots and too
much makeup and arrange for her to encounter peter probably in
the supermarket where she would pretend that she'd heard he
was a great artist and convince him that she desperately wanted
to see his paintings and then he would take her up to his
apartment to look at the paintings and she would seduce him
   this was the great plan     and they would pay her pretty well
theyd pooled all their money and they had something like a
hundred and fifty dollars that theyd saved up    they had it all
worked out and the only thing they needed to do was find the
   so they got into the red cherokee and drove downtown to the
gaslight district where they spotted a woman in a miniskirt
and boots they double parked and blaise ran out to talk to
her look he said weve got a job for you and she looked
doubtful its an eighty-eight year old gentleman thats
cool she said theyre gentle he's a painter blaise said its
ok she said i'm hip this was 1984 and she spoke in the
language of the sixties blaise went on youve got to meet
him by accident and pretend you know about him and you want to
look at his paintings i dont know she said i dont know about
that     brett came out of the car to help you dont have to
say a lot he said he'll tell you all about them and he'll
probably recite some poetry to you in german blaise added or
hungarian in german? she said    look they said weve got a
hundred and fifty dollars i have to listen to poetry in
german for a hundred and fifty dollars? thats all weve got they
said and she thought a while wait she said i think theres
a girl i got a friend down there monica you know she
works further down the block i think shes german or maybe
polish but anyway shes european she could probably listen to
that so they tried two three four five girls in miniskirts
and boots and they offered plenty of money or what seemed
like it at the time a hundred and fifty dollars but nobody
wanted to look at art or listen to poetry for a hundred and fifty
dollars     this was the gap they were finally unable to bridge in
their attempt to recuperate losses from the noise of time

—david antin

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