A person leaning back with their eyes closed
Mengwen Cao

Danez Says They Want to Lose Themself in Bops They Can’t Sing Along To

A poem for Sunday

By Franny Choi
Photograph by Mengwen Cao

and I’m thinking of the years I spent sweating
to the choreo of every K-pop song with a decent
dance break, me and the other girls from church,
practically saintly in our diligence as we
rehearsed our isolations and body rolls, winding
and rewinding the tapes, our noses almost
grazing the screen, though in truth I only understood
maybe about half the words, the other half
mostly sounds, which nevertheless sank
into my muscles, pathways laid by so many
hours of industrious mouthing that now,
when humming idly some stupid tune
at the sink, I’ll realize for the first time ever
what! that line meant (though of course
pop everywhere’s a language so reliable
it’s nearly nothing, baby let me know and
I need you in my arms on babbling loop
through the ages), and I’m thinking, too,
about how this, my first love of losing myself in
the scaffolds and percussives of an unparsed lyric,
doomed me for life to never be able to hear,
actually hear, the words to any songs, even
in English, even my favorites, like Jamila’s,
which I put on when I’m adrift and sunken and just need
to feel at home in something—even those
harbors are built, mostly, of sonics—
not gibberish, I mean, but language so sacred
it’s not my place to try to decipher it,
phonemes holy as stones on a string, mysterious
as the names we give to animals, or words
we know only in prayer—at Rebecca’s mother’s funeral,
for example, where, when invited, I added my small voice
to the reciting of the Kaddish, and the perfect
thunder of it lifted one part of me higher
than air, while rooting another
deep into the fragrant earth, a bit of which
I later scooped, as gently as I could bear,
onto the casket, the shovel heavier than any
word I knew, and more full of light
than even the birds overhead, who,
as we wept, kept, of course, right on saying
exactly whatever they needed to say.