“My grandfather was a magician. He was an entertainer during the second world war for the troops; and what he did for the troops was worth so much. Because, as you know, the human soul is what gets a boy up on his feet. Depression kills people.
I am in the fortunate position to live just down the road from the main Bologna art gallery. And I get to watch people as they go in, and then how they are coming out. And they are just transformed.
I think that art is really about longing. That desire for what you can never have.
I worry about people who keep all their emotions down and to themselves. A lot of English men are like that. They will tell you that that’s their method of survival; but to me it is their method of not admitting that they are vulnerable. My father cries all the time. I’ve seen my brother cry many times.
But many men are afraid they will collapse if they allow themselves to truly feel. But I would ask them if they have ever put that to the test. And even if we do collapse, so what? We get up again, over and over, because that’s life. And that’s also where art comes in. I do believe that other artists have saved my life in times of up-against-the-wall. Art is necessary in the saving of human sanity.”
“I find that the more I write, the more I feel. I never ever think, ‘Oh yes, I’m going to write a poem about such-and-such.’ I’ve only written three poems where I’ve had inspiration first. I was trained as a dancer, so I am very disciplined. At the end of the day, I sit down and write myself a poem. And it’s only then when I really get deep into it, that I discover that I feel incredibly strongly about something. But usually to begin, I just put pen to paper or actually, finger to computer, and I write a word or sentence that’s completely…spontaneous. I’m looking out my bedroom window at that white fence…and see where it takes me. Or I start with a word that I like the sound of that’s been going around in my head. As a kid, I used to make up words that I liked the sound of, and then I’d attach a meaning to it, and then attach a sound, and a color and taste.”
* * *
i want to be alone in a pool
with just the glistening shimmering oil
that’s water but
looks just the same as it
drains down our veins,
our skins natural butter
i want to look up and all i see
is optical floaters and turquoise space.
i want to get my hair wet
so it weighs me down
and pulls my neck
and drops chlorine between my cheeks
for the rest of the night
while i read and drink
on my wicker chair
that’s seen a thousand
just like this
oh, just like this
i want to float
not even swim
and feel the weightlessness of care
when it’s seen for what it is
just as i see the mermaids
they’re there all day
i talk to them
i just don’t say
* * *
“I grew up in England, amidst a great deal of sexual repression; but although my mother is very conservative on the outside, elegantly dressed and so on, she is extremely open-minded. A very intelligent, spiritual and creative person. She and my father have encouraged me from day one to just drip out whatever liquid is in me; like, if you want to cry, they’d say, ‘Cry, go ahead, that’s ok.’
I have no problem expressing myself and my sensuality. I pour all of myself completely into my art. Whether it’s singing opera, or playing the piano, composing, painting, dancing or writing poetry. If I were to die tonight and had written a cracker of a poem today, it wouldn’t matter. Because I live and love fully. Give it all that I have. Every day.
It’s not that there’s anything special about me. There isn’t. I just can’t stand the feeling of being emotionally small, repressed. When I was a student in the world of opera, the thing then was to have a small, tinny voice. If you had a big voice, you went to another country. People weren’t attending the conservatory because they were passionate about making music; they wanted to learn to do what everyone else was doing. They wanted to play the safe music and then go teach. I just absolutely couldn’t take it and sunk into a really deep depression.
That’s when I decided to move to Italy. It was a dream of mine ever since I was a girl of eight. I moved to Italy not speaking the language. But I survived. I worked as an opera singer.
Many of us, women especially, are afraid of our sensual natures. We are told from a very young age that to be expressive sensually is a very bad thing. I remember the first I ever heard about Marilyn Monroe when I was about five. I’d heard her name being batted about by my relatives and asked who she was. ‘Oh,’ they said, ‘she was a screen idol, but she wasn’t our sort of person.’ And I said, “What do you mean?’ And they said, “Well, she used to walk around the house naked.’ And all these years later I haven’t forgotten that.”
“In my poetry, I write about sex a lot. All those things that you’re not supposed to talk about, I write. I even mention the Pope! And why shouldn’t I? I was not disrespecting him. Just observing. Musing, you know. There’s so much taboo still, and I won’t have it. I will write about it!”
* * *
Gift Tied Up
he tied my ankles with not gaffa but with hermes silk
satin tied around my eyes
but tongue tied with anticipation
my knees with chiffon, wrists with ribbon
he had the rest hang down with my hair
my head bent back
i do not resist
i know who you are
i can smell the back of your neck
and then, tar…
on the persian rug,
in our italian room
i cannot move
there is no give
i am riding along to the rhythm of trust
and you learn the patterns hard
hey change and test you
like love, like love
i am naked but for stripes then
there is nothing banal like kink going on
this is french filmic perfection
petals falling from the sky
manna, this is spiritual …
i can smell burning
or heat or something
i smell fire
and then i panic
a split thrash scalpel nerve
makes my body cook right thru
flames and fire freeze-burn this woman
outside but from deep within
i don’t know this smell…
is it vanilla or hash or something
exotic or new to me?
caramelize my panic
with that thought then
i don’t know
what i can do
you tell me ”quite still”
and i am shivering
strangely not with cold
then comes what might have been
your last word ”wait.”
what could that mean?
then there is this gap. this nothing
i feel unwell and tight inside.
it feels forever
like i am spinning
my heart’s pounding
questions come in;
how long is nine years to know a person?
no time, if they go quite mad
he could be about to kill me
when i was ready for the lad.
a single tear soaks my eye satin
and red becomes dark blood from now
”why not talk to me, my darling
”talk to me?”
and then i hear ravel, the left hand.
and feel the fear so harsh so sick
that i can’t breathe.
i felt it down there.
something warm spilled down on my front
from a height, i know it so
it’s on the side of my forehead too
and it dripping down quite heavily
onto my tummy, knees and here
my hair is pulled back from my mouth now
all i hear is
”now say please”
there cant be more
he smiles in an exhalation, oh
i know that noise
its a morning thing
he does on my neck
you know when you can
hear someone smile?
i say please.
i am not afraid
and the joyful smell begins
to make some sense to me.
he says to use my tongue to taste
but he has fashioned the pattern so i just cant reach
then mine meets his…
its melted and warmed but not too hot
its chocolate and i’ve had
this for you
for nearly a month
and i know
that you’ll soon be begging for more”
and then says
yes i said, there is.
like love, like love.
fear had made the taste
more sweet more pure
that ever before
* * *
Emma Stace Darling heralds from Hastings in the south of England and now lives most contentedly in Bologna, Italy. Her first published poetry collection, Girl on fire, is now out in paperback.