Working Progress, Working Title
[Automystifstical Plaice]

John Matthias

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In the beginning
without any mother the girl was born a machine.
In the year of erotic parades.
The Novia poured out the oil the gears were engaged
the études composed and the light bulb
was Amèricaine. Voilà Picabia sweetheart of first
occupation voilà ballet mécanique.
We'll not eat our bread by the sweat of our brows
in the end: Je viens pour toujours
it is error and grief you'll be known by
the strength of our steel
the number of rivets and not by the river
where fishermen cast or the last
of your towers to build on the strength of our dowry.
Antheil Olga Boski Hedy and Ez, she says:
Or probably better
Olga and Ez, Antheil and Boski [Hedy Keisler Mandl Lamarr.
That's Mandl, Fritz, from Vienna, the armaments man,
the war profiteer. Hedy Keisler, the naked broad in the film.
It won't be a dance, it won't be ballet mécanique.
Ecstasy, rather, a run through the woods and a swim.
The actress saying: sex in this movie is real,
Mandl's lieutenants will buy up & burn any print they can find
so Hedy and Fritz can entertain Hitler and Mus.
Aribert Mog is displaced; the telescope on the lens
enlarges another face
from about a decade before.]

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                                              They enter a judgment,
Theatre des Champs Elysées. Everyone's there. The soloist
doesn't know that he is a she. He doesn't know
he's set up, doesn't yet know they've scripted him in a riot
(those lights are too many, too bright.)
Mere human being he sits there robotic she looks like
a presence out of Bohemia via Berlin's RUR.
He begins with Sonata Sauvage.
A camera's panning the audience, picks out the famous:
Picasso and Joyce, Duchamp, Milhaud and Satie.
We see them there with Leblanc as Lescot in the film
but we don't hear a sound Mr. Pound leaping
right out of his seat and shaking a fist as people begin
to walk out on Antheil himself at his Airplane Sonata
by now and sweating away but we don't hear a thing as we gaze
at the girl without any mother born a machine
who would sing out succes du scandale a clickityclack
of the dactylicanapests jerking the film
through a circle of light the soloist booed from the stage
the piano rolls looping their loops
in twelve pianolas electronic bells and a xylophone siren
another Picabia made from the parts
of a Model-T Ford.

                             Good Lord, she says, Mon Dieu.
That must have been one nine two three, the year I went
to the races with Hem at Anteuil, the year
young Antheil was going to play Cyclops for Jim.
A working title indeed, she says, a walking tittle or tattle I'd say
to your automystiftistical plaice--
you're fishing again in some pre-Riemannian river
and don't understand the riveters have it all over
the rhetors who can't even master the minor recursions
while minding the algorithmical gaps.
No one could actually play that piano roll A wrote into the score,
the digitals moving at speeds and at intervals
nobody's ten carboniferous digits could match.
So down at the hurdle went Manzu, tossing his jock,
and Héros the Twelfth and L'Yser dashed at long odds
for the finish. Seining out in the sea near Le Havre
you wouldn't net any sonnets much less Seigneurs
out of Proust. You understand, she insists,
there are no parallel lines in rivers that wind & nothing but nothing
my love appears to cohere from inside the system
trust me I'm a truffler I know my way around.
And Pound once again that very same year in his Treatise?
claiming for A's diacronic harmonics
that sounds whatever the pitch combination etcetera
harmonize across time
these series of chords these arpeggios wait to embrace
through an interval
                                                         silence
the crux of the thing
the space in the music like space in some canvas
by Lewis his fine demarcations of volume,
cylindrical forms: You do comprehend these recursions are different
from those you'd expect,
the power plant cycles like no minuet ?
                                                                    & so A, she says,
was the cause of that riot but nowhere was seen
in the film. It's me, it is I, on the screen!
They call me there the austere Mademoiselle Claire Lescot.
I'm some kind of cubist cold fish, the girl
without any mother born a machine who can nonetheless sing
and I stare down those rioting plebs at the Champs Elysées
alive in the interval A absconditus diminished
however you like. [81: chez vous. Demain à sept heures.
82: musique imprévue. 83: odieuse, odieuse. 84: atmosphère
torturante quand elle laisse enfin percer le secret. . .
son immense douleur inhumaine. . .
85, 86, 87: In reel time
we're counting the titles, we number the causes, effects:
Sonata Sauvage, piano, piano roll, siren
and dactyl and drum.
Will George in the war be faithful
to Boski his wife? Will Olga or Ez trumpet Mus?
Will young Fräulein Keisler run naked as Hedy Lamarr?
Fishing or fasting, reprogram, reverse it
and search]

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                      Your working title, she says,
might as well gesture at Czech. The Gödels and Cepeks fished
for me in my motherless maze when I thought I was
Daumier's laundress and not Miss Sullarobotess,
some loopy machine in your ghost,
the ganef your ganglia somehow encoded, the chip on your shoulder,
the quantum mechanic under the hood of your truck.
Before they made me the knee of your curve, the neural pathway
encrypted for good. Was I not to dissolve in I am
but as antiparticulate anapest?
And that other, doctor, a dactyl, or a cat call out of the pit.
Anyway the joke was on P: A's pianola replacing
the Sapphics & he himself its antistrophe, turns unrolling
Daphne's thighs from the bark.

So model-T begat Picabia who as machinist made the shape that named a choreography. And then Antheil's recital drove the riot L'Herbier required for Lescot before she visits Léger's laboratory where her lover there among the angles and the geometric shapes, the silver disks and metal rods and knobs and dials and flashing beams of light, transfigures her. [Hedwig Keisler's in Vienna at that moment and she's eight years old. She's also in the lab. She's in the music and the dance and the machine.] And then when A has finished playing at that theater and gifting us with such an angry crowd in L'Inhumaine, he synchronizes those piano rolls whose loops and variants of eighty-eight prefigure microsecond hops between the frequencies of anti-jamming programs in torpedoes or computer links or cordless phones. This is Ballet Méchnique: the draft. This the working title. This the initial location, the automystifstical plaice. We don't hear a thing as we call up Archival Search: Were you, Oh My Baby, meant to walk that washer woman up the stairs with Léger-Daumier? The print went to Vienna and premiered in silence, running credits anyway for Synchronisme Musical. The ostinati rolled for friends and patrons five days later at the Salle Pleyel.

If first the vertical and then the horizontal penetrations were derivatives of pianist and pianola, neither got it all entirely right, though both had caught a ride on George's rickshaw. Our guest was still a ghost, the cyborg wasn't yet a sibyl on the line. And A himself could never fully realize his 1923 designs. His codes were still dependent on a vacuum force and paper rolls with which he sought to synchronize his twelve or more machines. He hadn't met the Midi, technical cousin of Claire, his digital and instrumental interface. As if you'd teach the retrofitted to respond in synch, but not for sixty years. Still, the lady out of Daumier walks up the stairs and up the stairs and up the stairs once more in Ballet Mécanique the film. If Claire Lescot stood in for one piano, these stone steps beside the Seine and these looped thirty frames appear and reappear to summon music no one hears where tie-rods, pistons, wheels and gears and abstract forms reflected in the steel of a prismatic fracturing all gleam and try to sing.

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Says Ezra Pound: EP. He plays. All gleam and try to sing. And then Léger: Léger. Says George Antheil: Anteuil. That piece in place. Police will net you rioters at any cybernetic database. Then peace. Or flounder there. All champs, these guys. All champs Champs Elysées. If someone might just reconnect. That wire. That Novia who pours out oil, those gears that re-engage. Say P & A: Machines are musical. Machines are part of life. It's right that one should feel a little warm. One does so feel. Or cold. It's not required of anyone to kneel. When they tried to integrate the music and the film they didn't mesh. They went their separate ways as separate works like two berserks in RUR or Léger's lab. In 1923 the pianolas were all out of synch. You've said. But now the Midi in her Quadra form's all smiles. Disklavier by Yamaha. [As if you'd count out miles of spectrum spreads with Miss Lamarr.] At some café-tabac you'd linger over a petit vin blanc or modify the track at will and run the thing right back. And was that laundress's one friend a fisherman?

Oh yes. In all the winding rivers and at sea. Says he:

 

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EP:

Not Ezra Pound: Express Pâquette (in negligée).

Not George Antheil: Anteuil. No not Champs Elysées.

In prose: Who goes? The ghost of Claire Lescot.

And not Lescot: Sans mother a machine.

A hemistich? A click. Some dream you've seen.

Some obligation anyway to start assigning parts. Whose art?

Not mine. Some rhyme or other you'd suppose.

Delete suppose: Some interlude between the creatures' double features.

Lescot escorted from the stage. What page?

Léger: Constructed objects. Fountain pen. A pendulum against a silhouette.

Antheil: A cigarette?

[Lamarr: Pâquette!]

Léger: These squares and circles, animation: play.

EP: I see arpeggios. Prismatic images of day.

Picabia: The Lady Light Parisienne, a glow.

[Lamarr, Pâquette: Lescot!]

Antheil: They said I had all Paris by the ear; I was in full career.

Léger: That year I had them by. . .

[Pâquette: I know, the eye!]

Picabia: By Model-T or Model-A, I had divined a rod.

Léger: My god, these quotes: A shiny metal sphere.

Antheil: That spins and disappears.

[Lamarr: For what?]

Antheil: A thought

emerging intermittently between the wars among the whores of discourse. [Horse, that is,
of race course. Force of different color?
Go.
System error 218: Anteuil
not Antheil.
Astound not Ezra Pound.
Constructed objects, fountain pen, a pendulum against a silhouette. Hedy Keisler
growing up: New file]

                                  Which says, my Sister System,
I'll not take it back. I'll just
stay on track I think and tell you one more time
it's prisms and not prison like I said.
I didn't say? Well, anyway.
And no dissolves or fade-outs, no irises or wipes,
everything quick-cut and edgy from
the pure geometries to Kiki's painted lips & eyes.
I loved that walk from L'Inhumaine right up and into Dudley Murphy's
lens where only I in that ballet was
fully conscious. I even heard the absent music in my ears.
They'd added something by Milhaud of course, but secretely
I walked those stairs on George's arm,
our loops and our recursions not quite waltzing to Matilda
right in step, it's true. Then suddenly for me
no more Champs Elysées.
No more long afternoons with Hem out at Anteuil or
drinks at the Café du Dome. Ah, home:
My favorite place, my resting plaice, Mon Vieux!
Who'd have programmed metamorphoses
like these: migraines among transmigrating neural forms
and even A
in Hollywood at work on Plainsman
for De Mille and Paramount. They tied up Gary Cooper
to a stake & lit the fire beneath his feet accompanied
by something like the Mechanisms for piano
that had conjured rioters for Claire Lescot when I was she.

The silent Diva and the Model-T get scrapped when even Dali
comes to town proclaiming Cecil B a great Surrealist.
The times are strange. Air waves all awash with bands that swing
or Autrey singing down home out of range.
Ecstasy had made a star Miss Lamarr although nobody
in the USA had seen it. [Girl seventeen & born
of mother no machine. Alas, an unfucked bride: Swimming naked
and observed by handsome virile male actor name of Mog,
her simulated sex on sofa later advertised to be
the real ride. Movements to be reproduced by analog
or digitize? First prize. Alu will occur
three hundred thousand times in human genome
to be known and coded soon enough.
That's why A and Dali loose their dog the Andalou
on B and you]

 
                       Coeval, then, & coefficient in the codices
of coinage, they sit together
in the private screening room: the mogul
and the moilers make a single molecule for a moment
as modalities come into play: The way
the young man strops his razor by a balcony, then deliberately
draws the blade across the woman's open eye that bleeds
on down the screen where just before they'd lit up
the Dakotas with some rushes of Calamity
and Wild Bill to test the sound. No sound now but
Dali's voice, whispering to George and Miss Lamarr,
De Mille beginning to be ill:
                                             In '29 we used a Gramophone
behind a curtain: Tristan and some tangos,
but you'll get the dirty puns: That man who cuts her eye
first glances at la lune and then we see her
face as if it were her ass, his gaze half-mooned,
her eye become her oeil du cul he'd diddle with a dildoe
so we play this little coup de vache
on every scatalogue and watch the ants emerge
from his stigmata, no? the way he's roped
to this machinery he drags, pianos stuffed with putrefying
donkeys and dos padres, si? the priests tied up and
on their backs in bondage of some kind as part of this
contrivance & De Mille out of his seat by now
and saying brother rat [?] or bugger that [? the file at
this point labeled diction inconsistent] so
we'll give them Custer Lincoln Hickok Cody Hopalong
and Jesus Christ at Rancho Grande, George
but what the hell is this?
                                    I don't know, she says,
but that's the way I heard it. Also, I'd begun
of late to feel odd affinities with Paramount and MGM
and fully integrated scores of soothing violins
and mellow horns, and more than that I had this queer
attraction [was I Lesbo? did my database pick up
some viral pixels on my transatlantic trek?] for Miss Lamarr.
Although I still missed Paris & Picabia & Ez,
I'd always been, just like they said, Amèricaine: as Novia
or light bulb or arpeggio or pitch. I'd harmonized
across the times as if embracing intervals in rhymes
and here I was with Salvador and
Cecil's kitsch, my former lover back there fishing off
Le Harve and my senescent self
still climbing stairs in ludic loops. [42: Keyboard
and the bleeding head of donkey A.
43: Donkey A replaced by donkey B. 44: Male cyclist
in a housemaid's dress, a closing door.
45: A woman's wagging tongue whose text
is next: Tirer la langue;
it reels in time, those white keys teeth, the language
flowing through a leaking roof
a gamble & a Gödel proof; donkey C
is in our key, alive
alert, aloof.]
                    She says, although I seemed to be that
one qui perd ses dents and only climbed
the stairs, I felt immortal next to Hedy now who really
lived and so could only die, her dark machine
in that bright ghost a spectrum spread
like some black raven's wing. And George would write
their song. But as for you, my neuralnetted friend,
no one nominates an end, so try again at the beginning
where you counted rivets and were tempted
by the tempered steel. I'd style you as titular
Titanothere, cloned from Eocene into titanium,
statistical as your specific gravity
& valence & atomic weight. If you could swim
they'd cast you in her place.

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In the Salzburg palace basement or the hidden conference room of his Vienna flat, he'd show himself another print of the offending scene of that same film his agents had again obtained at great expense--and then destroy it. Obsession made him a discerning connoisseur; this print just a little faded, that one slightly dark. But always there was her orgasmic St. Teresa-of-a-mouth à la Bernini and Delilah nipples that De Mille would say were sugar-coated with religion just for Samson's tongue. And writhing hips and thighs. And naked ass. Of course she'd left him--actually escaped by means of a disguise and complicated ruse--sometime in the spring of 1937. But she'd listened first to all those conversations among guests who'd come on business with the Hertzenberger Industries. Like Krupp and Basil Zaharov, Mandl had the reputation of a man who'd start a war if that would move the goods. Goebbels kissed her hand from time to time and Goering held her chair. No one understood that she could understand the technicalities. It was all a kind of music that accompanied the movie in her mind. As if someone who sat beside her at the baby grand on which she'd conjured storms in Ecstasy kept pointing out a spectral figure at an upright in the corner shadows of the stately palace room where she had been a silent party to analyses of radio control and interception by the politicians and the engineers. As if he played a phrase, a bar, a whole ballet of permutations that configured variations on the number eighty-eight and all were answered by the keys before her note for note. As if the notes were hopping frequencies no jealous husband lurking on a narrow signal band could jump or jam or even chase pursuant to an instrument for her arrest, and she could send encryptions of her own desires to a satelite or submarine in some determinable future's sky or sea. As if she were herself some wireless net through which transmission played its working titles and entitled wakings and its wacky tales, through which some Claire Lescot prepared to solo for her Turing test or sing along like yet another pianola at the prom.

Was it impractical to play piano rolls inside the missiles and torpedoes that a radio would guide along a band of frequencies stretching out to eighty-eight? Although this music from phantasmagoric Paris earned a US patent for its military application and eventually produced more racket than a dozen riots at Theatre des Champs Elysées, in 1941 the War Department didn't think that George and Heddy could defeat the Nazis on their own. They thought they could. Leaving Cecil B and Dali talking teleology at Paramount, they went to work and made a template down at Heddy's place outside LA at canyon Benedict. In 1957 the transistors at Sylvania finally made it sing. And now your cell phone rings. The wireless internet turns up a site devoted altogether to the Midi programs and the bank of synthesizers and the Apple Quadra that have synchronized the very music that created hopping frequencies and play it dancing à la ballet mécanique across contemporary spectra spread out in the night. Claire Lescot again walks shaken from the stage. Léger's laundress climbs and climbs the stairs. Milstar system's crosslink disk antennae make secure a constellation that's controlled by downlinked signals playing their encryptions which have harmonized in time.

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If EP thumped a drum in Paris and attempted a bassoon when A composed his trios and sonatas there for Olga Rudge, Harpo Marx in Hollywood was B flat major clarinetist in the symphonietta thrown together by despairing exiles, studio composers and indigenous eccentrics just to play a bit of Schoenberg in the war and keep their spirits up. It somehow follows thus. And A imagines all of them quite disembodied in a beautiful machine. With other incompatibles. Where into some blind switchman's roundhouse puffs an insubstantial 1850s Difference Engine pulling phantom coaches from the past all loaded with the numbers meaning Novia and étude and Américaine multiplied by the idea of a red caboose. Where EP is Express Paquette. Who plays, that whore, for larks. That open door of Montparnasse. And Harpo Marx: These sparks that fly. And A's pneumatic-driven notes become electric quotes from 1923. In 1941 it's done in spite of Paramount for Miss Lamarr. And then its done for Milstar in the sky or Disklavier that's clear on time's uncertain rhymes. Twelve hundred measures in your file for sequencing. Select your samples from a hand-cranked siren and orchestral bell and biwing props. Prepare a click track and beware the signatures that change six hundred times. Calculate in milliseconds and deploy the sixteen retrofitted grands. Clap hands. Enter isomorphic. Admit the Laundress and delete Lescot. Delete the autological. Let go. When every patron on the lam cries out: just one more time, and play it Sam, the answer sticks right in your gorge: I am not Sam, my name is George.

 

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Not C. De Mille. An illness in the village of the will.

A poisoned well? A ringing bell.

Disgust, disgrace. With nearly everything in place.

In Hollywood is nothing good. The marble temples made of wood.

The templates, too. The idol Dagon stuck in glue.

A certain bet & neural net? The Russell paradox inside your set.

A rural ease and honey bees. Returning money on the lease.

CB: Your friends were all effete.

Antheil: This film of yours about Lafitte!

They fucked each other in the ass.

[And on the grass, those pirate lads.]

[Lescot: Our Hem went running with the bulls]

CB: Could any of them pay their bills?

Lamarr: I've nipples here to sell.

Antheil: And they had stories they could tell.

CB: Who's this Lescot? I'm sure not anyone I know.

Lafitte: A pirate! Get that in your notes.

Bassoon: Put "Harpo Marx" in quotes.

EP: When he was young, George worked for me.

We're stuck here in this DVD. Desktop, laptop, box of chips.

Mainframe swallows up our fame.

Bits of code all recombined. The Seine might just as well be Rhine.

CB: The past. Antheil: At last.

Lamarr : Too long is late but not too far.

Plaintext cyphered: stare by star 
 
 

says steer [does it] by stair? Milaud's prime beef qui etait sur le toit is either going up
or coming down whenever knot is now
is notnow not-knot anyhow old Mac iron bomb [ap-
pended copy to a copy and said copy that
repeats itself
plus copy of that copy &
original all hypercarded glut or metalepsis
boot again you fruit: It's Nipples
not In Naples.
Lafitte not With Your Feet.
Buccaneer, a bayou waterway, a privateer, one hundred twenty-three
pirogues & Andy Jackson too: New score]
                                                                   She says,
& that was Limbo not That Bimbo, Tex.
Try Lingo next: try glossing alu, angel capital, AI and ASR.
Try haptic interface and PGP and Qu-bit. Luddite
if you like but total touch environment is on the way with
virtual sex, though Hedy gets the parts in all these films.
As for me, I ended up at MIT in some robotics lab,
but that comes later on. In between comes Friedman cracking Purple
and Los Alamos and CB's pirate flick with George's score
and yes my own dear sweet dumb ex out riding
on his charger from Anteuil brandishing his relic of a saber
from the Franco-Prussian war and straight
into a column of advancing German tanks.
Never underestimate the new technologies. The plaice
is in your face. Strange to think CB had made
his first Commandments in the very year of L'Inhumaine.
The rest, perhaps, amendments,
and some justice there in Dali's deli east of the Chinese.
On Murok Sands in the Mojave
Ramses & 300 chariots a Golden Calf the Laws & Orgies
all the Israelites the Pharoh's city and an avenue
of twenty sphinxes worked out the techniques to blast
the Paris avant-garde and put the Samson-shears
in Hedy's hand. All downhill for Paris. Everybody in LA.
Sell out or be sold into some exhibition of degenerates;
collaborate and sing like Edith Piaf
or the Chevalier.
                                   They told me she was working on
Tortilla Flats and just broke down completely when the news
came in about the war. The journey over on the Normandie
with Louis Mayer, who had offered her a job, and old
Cole Porter who kept whispering oh you're the top and
it's delovely and experiment right in her ear
had made her pretty optimistic in a gray grim world. But on
that day she walked right off the set and right past
Spencer Tracy, Steinbeck and the lot of them still costumed as
that simple little waif from Mexico and saying Find Me
George Antheil. We're going to sink the Hertzenbergers
and the Krupps with my torpedo.

That they tried to do, and for a while I toted round their
template, patented for George and Hedy Keisler Markey
(which was briefly once her married name).
The post-war world was confusing and a little flat
for someone like myself who'd left her husband fishing
off Le Havre to join the brilliant entourage that pitched
its diacronics across time but came to grief in rhyme.
For a girl like me without a mother born as a machine,
I'd always had a mortal fear of Philistine. I went
to Princeton first and showed the figures round the Institute
where only the eccentric Barricelli took an interest.
We played two hands at George's early compositions sitting
side by side at one piano. I think he'd seen my film.
He said Your mutant language has evolved by crossings and
selections, just like species do. Take one of my cards.
A symbiogenic birth entirely from the numbers operating
on their own in Simula on DEC Sys 10. But here it is,
product of a B-math symbiont or parasite. Give it to Lamarr.
Your friends' piano-rolling weapon maybe didn't
end the war, but it could end the world. Its progeny will
be evolved in ways you cannot see and you yourself deserve
a Gödel number for your pains. He said Are you alive?
I thought he was a little nuts, but kissed him anyway
before we drove to town for Samson on a local screen....

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And there she was in all her glory with that hunk
Mature who wielded for sure the jawbone of the ass
against his enemies just like it says in Judges.
Judge us, that's what we said in Paris, if you dare!
And did they dare? Did they draft a thousand barbers
just to cut our hair? Who but we could best put forth
the riddle of the lion's carcass and the swarm of bees?
We'd caught three hundred foxes, put the firebrands
to their tails, and loosed them barking in the standing corn.
Such corn there was! And kitsch!
We dwelt then at the top of Etam rock
which crumbled in the end and made us exiles.
Had they done their plowing with our heifer? Did
George's hair grow long again grinding in the prison house
of Paramount? Hedy played the harlot for the Philistines,
but that was all an act. . .
                                              I hear they keep
old prints of L'Inhumaine and Ballet mécanique in some
dark archive where, like Mandl with his prints of Ecstasy,
they turn each other on with clips cut from the body
of our work. At MIT they want to know what makes me tick.
I blip and flicker, but I turn no trick.
They're racing with the Japs at Honda to perfect their
human motion simulation software
and a clumsy biped toddler they call Dick.
I don't tell them much. What floundered first on Flanders Field
wasn't plaice. In any case. Nor when jockeys rode against
the Panzers crossing near Sars-Poteries
the undefended river Meuse. That other river that I loved
still passes Troyes and Melun and our
shining hungry haunted city of Between the Wars before
it loops through Normandy and past Rouen to empty in the sea.
Someone's fishing there. He looks like you.
I think I loved him once.
A washer-woman tired as I am now stops her climbing
up the endless stairs beside the Seine
and looks behind her with appreciation at the view.