September 29, 2017 Fiction , Literature , POETRY / FICTION

Mike Wilson photo



Emily Bilman



A true story



The city is built on an ancient glacier valley crossed by the Rhône that flows through lake Léman. The tram moved around Geneva’s busiest arteries as swiftly as the folk show advertised on it. Amid all the passengers, I held on to the railing in the middle of the tram with one hand while facing the river Rhône.


I had just sent out my dissertation to the university for the viva. In my thesis, I compared poets to children-at-play. I argued that both sublimated their narcissistic traumas into games and poems. Thirteen year-old Felix had been analysed by Melanie Klein for his inhibitions in playing and learning during his early schooling. When his father had returned from fighting in WWI, he started beating the boy for his cowardice so that he would start playing again. Simultaneously, the boy became indifferent to learning.


Klein argued that the boy’s dislike of learning was due to his interest in games. In therapy, Felix had fantasized about a football game played by naked girls with whom he interacted. Klein interpreted this as a repressed reference to the primal scene whose sounds had excited him. He had been an unconscious perceiver and a critic of the parental union.


Felix’s therapy involved face-to-face conversations with Klein, playing with her, and painting. Klein would then analyse the symbols behind the games and paintings and connect them to his childhood traumas. Through therapy, Felix developed his talent for music. As an adult, he became a successful composer. He had finally assumed the paternal role.


The tram that circled the city was packed almost to the brim with passengers like sturgeon eggs in a tight tin can. Suddenly, a slim little girl, probably a four-year-old, standing right next to me, looked up at me with her big brown eyes and grabbed my hand surreptitiously. Her other hand was held by her father who looked at both of us with amazement. She smiled at me in anticipation. Her father, in apprehension, said to her: “Ne dérange pas cette dame, Emilie, s’il te plaît.”


The tram conductor braked before one of the stops, jostling the passengers brusquely into each other. She let go of my hand; then, kept looking at me intensely as if she wanted to thank me. I felt as if she had known me for many years. I felt our bond. I felt she trusted me.


As we parted, I imagined the city as a body with a will of its own, functioning through its interconnected organs whose rhythms provided its working force and assured its social coherence. The city’s sounds made up its speech whose rhythms allowed people to sing, mate, and communicate. And when repression set in, the libidinal force would have been sublimated into the work-force, merged initially with the people’s life-force. Thus, the foundations of our civilized society were built.


I thought of the little girl who had the same name as myself as one of my imaginary children to whom I wanted to offer Lego blocks to build bridges, pools, airports in the cities of her imagination. Our city contained more than four hundred different cultural and religious communities living and working in peaceful proximity. It is a city of expats, too, where space is carefully planned to fit the mobility, the professional, and cultural needs of its citizens. With Klein, I thought that the inhibition of our excess life-force, leading to successful repressions, is the stern foundation of our civilisation symbolized by our city. A city where every river is diked and cannot flow backwards.







Emily Bilman

Dr. Emily Bilman is a freelancer and London’s Poetry Society Stanza representative in Geneva where she hosts poetry meetings in her home. She earned her PhD from  East Anglia University where she taught literature and critical theory. Her dissertation entitled, The Psychodynamics of Poetry, was published in 2010 by Lambert Academic Publishing in Germany. Modern Ekphrasis, dealing with the poetry-painting analogy from Plato to Derrida, was published by Peter Lang, Switzerland in 2013. Her ms. Melville’s Metaphysics and The Ambiguity of Good and Evil is yet unpublished. Her  interdisciplinary essays on psychoanalytical theory and literature were published in The T.S. Eliot Journal, The Battersea Review no. 5; The Journal of Poetics Research of Sydney University. They can be read online.

Her poems are published in The London Magazine, The Linnet’s Wings, Hunger Mountain, Offshoots VII, XII, & XIV, Orbis, Poetry Salzburg Review, Iodine, Aois 21, Spillwords Press, The Galway Review, The Battersea Review, San Diego Poetry Annual, The Inspired Heart Vols. 1, 2, 3, & 4,  Ygdrasil, Tuck Magazine,, The Journal of Poetics Research, and  For her ekphrastic research she edits and writes for the digital publication Her poetry books, A Woman By A Well and Resilience, are published by Matador, UK. She was recently awarded the first prize for « The Tear-Catcher » by The New York Literary Magazine and her poems were broadcast on Bashani Radio, New York. She blogs on

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