by E. J. Koh, September 22, 2022 9:10 AM
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Saturn by Sleeping At Last
"How light carries on endlessly even after death / With shortness of breath you explained the infinite / and how rare and beautiful it is to even exist." Even if it wasn’t the gift I wanted, death was a kind of gift to me. I could glimpse both the change and unchangeability of my relationships and our lives together.
Cold Clear Moon by Tomo Nakayama
Tomo Nakayama’s songs are a place I go to remember. I can close my eyes and recognize a feeling of impossible relief that brings me to tears.
Almost Gone, Barely Here by Craig d’Andrea
My partner played this most mornings. To me, it was the first sentence of each day.
Love That Was Too Painful Wasn’t Love by Kim Kwang Seok
The line repeats:
translated as "love that was too painful wasn’t love.” It’s sung over and over. But it’s one of those things we do to ourselves, over and over again. My mother’s favorite — and mine too.
At Last by Etta James
This song reminds me of how Cristina Rivera Garza says, "Those who imagine can always imagine that this, whatever this is, can be different. This is the critical power of imagination." At Last feels like a practice in seeing things as they could be.
I’m Kissing You by Des’ree
I’m taken back to Mieko — a little parakeet who was a large presence in my childhood. She is a constant sky in my memoir, and it’s her wings that sail to their fullest wingspan over the waters in Alki.
One Summer’s Day by Joe Hisaishi
I remember, with this song, what not to say.
÷ ÷ ÷
E. J. Koh
is the author of the memoir The Magical Language of Others
(Tin House Books, 2020), Washington State Book Award winner, Pacific Northwest Book Award winner, Association of Asian American Studies Book Award winner, and PEN Open Book Award longlist. Koh is the author of the poetry collection A Lesser Love
(Louisiana State U. Press, 2017). Her debut novel The Liberators
is forthcoming from Tin House Books in 2023.