Lo Kwa Mei-en: “Passion with a Cinema Inside of It”


I ran an internet search on passion to help me write this introduction, and found that I’d written this poem out of my depth. Look for passion in our world and you’ll find an ancient power play with a problem for a heart. You’ll find a historical reel of attempts to define—to contain—our experience of strong and barely controllable emotion. Philosophers, poets, theologians, film directors: the effort to direct passion is, basically, erotic. You can do this at home.

I love going to the movies, but as a woman of color the actual cost of admission can be difficult to predict. Certain moments in film reenact trauma borne by people with marginalized bodies, and these moments are not foreshadowed by escalating soundtrack cues so an audience member may cover her ears, her eyes, or her heart. When such moments reach through what I had hoped was a wall and grip my heart, I experience a complex of extreme feeling. I become barely controllable. I am easily terrified, and dissociating in a public space is one of the darkest ecstasies I know, which is to say that the ugly passion inflicted on me by a film director collides with my beloved, fatalistic passion for self-control to form an insatiable double-bind. The power to author another person’s passion is, basically, necromancy. You cannot do this at home. You have to leave the structure you call your home and have a seat in the room in which utter darkness is what we paid for.

Passion with a Cinema Inside of It

Come into the century, where memory is mirrored
+++Milk money hidden in fists of daily bread

Cavalier, cold, and chronic cases like a nation
+++Like history like water, like mastery like wine

The slot is sober+But not the coin+The rolling credit
+++Of a pupil swallowing that pixel prick

Whipping at wall number four+Was that puppet
+++My full length+Or is your ticket torn, too

Fantasy is cement is safe house+Whom does exit
+++Injure+It did not take two to dangle

Come to the stilling den, the threshing floor
+++To spectacle festival grunting small+We came

For pleasure and coughed up joy and came back
+++For terror+We named a holy price+Twice

Replayed is the earthly problem+Tragedy gives back
+++No uncut self or sympathy+That is+Unless

2014-06-12 10.56.52 (2)Lo Kwa Mei-En is the author of Yearling, winner of the 2013 Kundiman Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared in Boston Review, Guernica, The Kenyon Review, West Branch, and other journals, and won the Crazyhorse Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize and the Gulf Coast Poetry Prize.

“Passion with a Cinema Inside of It” appears in the Summer & Fall 2015 issue of Poetry Northwest.

photo credit (top): IMG_6310 (license)