William Blake (1757-1827) Talks With Lydia Millet (1968-    )


And did those feet in ancient time, walk upon England’s mountains green?

I did live in England one time, for a period of four months. It was 1989, I think. London. I never got to the mountains. Never even saw any. Not to the country at all. I was at school. Mostly it was bars for us, in our free time. One of the girls was dating a rower so a few times we went to watch him row. You had to drink then, it was so boring. Watery gin drinks. Scull, scull. Never knew who won or lost, couldn’t tell the difference, never cared. They were sorority girls I lived with, in a dingy apartment in Bayswater. Surprising me, they were nice girls. On the stovetop, sliver-thin cockroaches ran round and round when we cooked. In a cabinet in the living room we found a dead dove, its belly split open with rice spilling out. We never knew how the bird got there or if the rice had killed it.

It was a stricken love, but still love. It was the kind of love that gazed up at you from the bare white flood of your headlights—a wide-eyed love with the meekness of grass-eaters. Soft fur, pink tongue, and if you got too close a whiff of mulch on the breath. This was the love she cherished for her husband.

The love had other moments. Of course it did. But its everyday form was vegetarian.

She suspected it was the love of most wives for their husbands, after some time had passed. Not for the newlyweds—that was the nature of the condition—but for the seasoned, the ones who had seniority. When she thought of conjugal love she saw a field of husbands stretched out in front of her—a broad, wide field. Possibly a rice paddy. They were bent over, hoeing. Did you hoe rice? Well, whatever. The way she saw them, the husbands had a Chinese thing going on. They toiled like billions of peasants.