Lo Kwa Mei-en is the author of Yearling (Alice James Books, 2015) and The Bees Make Money in the Lion (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2016). She is a Kundiman fellow from Singapore and Ohio, where she lives and works in Cincinnati.
from The Nightingale
In fact the nightingale’s visit was most successful. She was now to remain at
ooooooooooooooooooocourt, to have her own cage.
It’s not weak to need a good, simple freedom, but I am
neither. Lately, I brave the engineer’s house to find
an engine pacing an ideology. I gag on his belief and
cramp up on autobiography’s sex like a teenage womb
in a confidant’s room. His narrative is horny. It makes me
a crotch in a teaching stairwell. It’s too late to confess
constructively—no brave, shouted schema in a palace
basement, no heaving Ohio frost licking at my breast
until retching—or well. I unearth a nipping coping.
A boy-king has an urge. It’s impossible to edit it whole
or well. I was a teaching cunt. It’s too late to eat air
and feel attractive about experimenting with form. My
form is fucked. My experiment is numb. I want to feel
I have one life, one death, two swinging keys for thighs.
After a great deal of talking and examination, the bird was put into
something like order; but he said that it must be used very carefully.
If it is wrong of me to be found, a fist in his apologia.
If hysteria is a memo in the entrails of honest rhetoric.
If the friend who made sure I was on the pill left me
flayed in the pitchy dark of camaraderie. If my friend
ejaculated, then lights out in my ovaries. If girlfriend,
virtuousity rings the vinyl hall, the ruler of margins.
If still needing sex is a debate that rips the sibyllic oracle.
If he consumes my replica upon her kingdom’s tenure,
if my replica eats nothing for years in worldly contract.
If who violated when and to what degree can move her
inviolate head, she is retrofitted in the hall of virgins
and expelled with rites of passage to go before I sleep.
If nothing is ordeal in a dream where I’m not human.
If my device did not have a thought in its prettiest head.
Then Death longed to go and see his garden, and floated out through the window in
ooooooooooooooooooooothe form of a cold, white mist.
the masthead is a smart, white, violent, boho pedigree
tree: the internet sings: the emotion dings out the rose
and the root of new followers: the connectivity is gold
lube: it’s all over his hand the proficiency of the body’s
device slot: the best literary device is barely conscious:
the only immigrant is devoid of a creative identity that
can imagine beyond a white citizen staring in the void
of resumé surfing resentment of ethnicity: authenticate:
middling mitts are proficient, for I am racily racial-ish:
the truth throws up a little in the privilege of a mercury
-filled art collection: self-worth a drip in the silvery sea
city of mind: city of a post-racial event, like a sexy fox:
city of what I was: the data is a pure, white, male wave
developing a voice: I do not want to be self-composed
The emperor was so delighted that he declared the nightingale should have his gold
ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooslipper to wear
round her neck, but she declined the honor with thanks: she had been sufficiently
Don’t want to self-possess or to own my developing
breasts. Don’t want to see-saw on top of a lush gate
to a city that opens it for a sexy, racist costumery pill.
Don’t want to enter the estate of taking it eloquently
or to master my need, like a man on a horse, expertly
hooding a little red debit to her moods. But the good
behavior lifts its zipper. Don’t not top off endowed
animal forms in the ICU behind a brute-kitsch office
or be rude so you see me, an ice forming in my animal
menstrual bone. I’m not not okay. Don’t want to un-
bind me off the sopping red column in my unbook.
Don’t want to present and cut wingèd, sweet, empire
pie. Don’t want to provide pleasure for an audien-
ce. Don’t want to provide pleasure for an audience.
“It sounds like tiny glass bells,” said the lord-in-waiting, “and see how her
ooooooooooooooooooooolittle throat works.”
It is not attractive of me to be an okay formalist with my fucking voice,
ooomy meh virtuosity.
To push the nightingale through the ivory gates is damning, as she never
ooodigested The Waste Land.
To be as sick as his secrets is to be, at last, accessible like the heroic in
ooopoetry, the olive blossom steeped in good manure.
To write like a formalist is to wear the illuminated tiara of entrails to bed.
To be a formalist is to feed the idea of light to the hot pink serpent piled
oooon your neck, for the dystopian body is the only canon that never dies,
oooand objectively handsome.
It is a practical bomb of me to tighten the poem’s patriarchy like a plumbing
To be the nightingale is to be consumed twice by a white institution—your first
ooohalf damned to your waste-land of origin, the second annihilated by gold,
and dystopia still glittering like a dimmer switch in the mirror of the hero’s
The rescue craft is still taking on craft plus voice, what if it finds my
ooovoice asleep in the sexual foyer of Immigration Services.
To fall in love with a form is to marry a very sexy history purged of eros.
It is attractive of me to tighten empire inside me like a formally gifted plum.
To sacrifice for poetry is to see that virtuosity will not save you—not with
ooothat artificial wind jammed in your mouth for the mold-making procedural.
To be an actual dystopia is to see the light fed back into me.
Constraint will not save me.