And so lay the bed
There was once a clever woman of mixed blood, fluent in German, Hebrew and English, and schooled in the finest British schools of Tel Aviv, where her family lived in exile from Nazi Germany. Her parents were lovers of Epicurean culture, of great novelists, poets, composers. She went to an art school in London, travelled far and wide then returned to work as a copywriter in an advertising agency. With her third husband she met a much-feted poet and his poet wife.
The clever woman and her husband visited the two poets and their children in the countryside of Devon. While in the kitchen a secret kiss passed between her and the feted poet. A row broke out between the poet wife and the clever woman, over peeling of potatoes, a menial task, the clever woman preferred not to do, and so she marched into the garden and flirted with the feted poet next to some beanstalks.
Some six weeks passed until the clever woman met the feted the poet again and they began a passionate tryst. And at her workplace she would boast, ‘You know, in bed, he smells like a butcher.’ The mother poet discovered the affair. The feted poet refused to give up his exotic lover and her third husband, also a man of letters, attempted to die as he learned of their betrayal.
The mistress of mixed blood landed in the arms of her lover who left his wife and children. Alas, soon the poet’s wife died. Lost and depressed, she took her own life. And so the mistress had to take over the caring of the poet’s children and the running of his house. A babe growing in her belly was aborted to avert any scandal.
She was unused to domestic chores and looking after children. So the poet typed her up a list: Do not stay in bed after 8am, do not wear a dressing gown around the house or take afternoon naps. Each week prepare a meal we have not had before. And teach the children German for an hour a day. He would cook in emergencies. The mistress bore a child, became devoted as a mother but as time went on the ghost of the poet wife took hold. The flawed and feted poet had more affairs to erase his guilt and grief.
The mistress despaired that the feted poet would never marry her. Publicly he denied their daughter as his own. His father refused to sit with her at dinner; his mother resented and shunned her. As her looks began to fade, she was alone with her child, had few work prospects and she lived in the shadow of the poet wife whose work now stunned the literary world. She became sad and leaden. She taped the kitchen door and window, took sleeping pills, turned on the gas stove. And as kitchen the filled with gas she lay with her young daughter on a mattress and that was where they died.
Women were the normal sacrifice to art. In those days, men had art and women had babies. As a man, it was almost your duty to sap the vitality and female energy of those around you. Assia was serving a great artist.
Fay Weldon People use each other as a healing for their pain. They put each other on the existential wound, on the eye, on the cunt, on the mouth and open hand. They hold each other and won't let go. Love song, Yehuda Armichai. Translated by Assia Gutmann