PLAYLISTS AND LOVE STORIES: A LYRIC ESSAY by Henneh Kyereh Kwaku

You can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their playlist.
—Mark Rufallo

—Playlists
This Spotify playlist has songs I know & songs I have never heard. This is not a playlist I made, this is my friend’s playlist. These songs I’m listening to are songs she listens to On Repeat—which means a lot that she shared with the world. I am the world, one of the worlds. It won’t be wrong to say making a playlist is like employment or even school admissions in Ghana (& maybe everywhere)—very selective—your title matters & who’s recommending you. I look at the titles of the songs & they remind me of our conversations—how everything is linked. These titles put together will form a good poem—but this is not the day we write that poem.

—&
We became friends after we both performed at a Spoken Word event. We didn’t speak to each other on that day. We performed & left. But I cheered loudly like I do my friends because I had friended her the very moment I heard her wow us with her poem. I didn’t need permission to do that. I performed later, a poem with a line—I smell like sex—probably one of the silliest poems I’ve ever written even when all I do is write silly poems.


Days after the event, I asked the organizer for her contact but to ask her first if she was alright with that, I needed that permission because it was collaborative—I got to know later that she didn’t ask but gave me the contact. We started talking, I am still shy but I try, we try—we keep talking—we realize we have similar tastes in music. We realize we are so alike than unalike, we twin.

—Love stories
All I want to talk about today is not poems but how I want to love my friends intentionally & specifically. I try. Truth is I don’t feel it is ever enough. & this is not even about how they feel or they react to the ways I love them. I don’t want to just write poems for them—I want to meet their specific needs—I want to have a shoulder they can cry on, a palm they can high-five, a pillow they can always hug, a heart they can own, money they can spend & if they need a kiss, I’d be there.
***
I don’t want to have reason to think before I throw my head under the guillotine for them.
***
When I text them, I add more letters like, heyyyyyy loveeeeeeeeeeee, I’m gladddddddd, I’m sooooooooooo happyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy, you knowwwwwwwwww, greatttttttttt! This is a ritual, each letter is like the stretch of a note in my favourite songs, each stretch is an extension of our lives. A prayer for increase & abundance.


I want to joy with them & joy with them & sad with them—I want us to help ourselves out of the sadness & put ourselves into the laugh. I want us to fly together, eat together—I want us to be & be. I want people to question our love & find no answers because we owe no one an explanation to how we love. I want us to not worry about what people think or say about us. Just loving & living.

—Playlists & love stories
The last three songs on this playlist are: Love like that, How it feels to fly & Need you—I haven’t listened to these songs yet. But that’s the message I need to say see you later! [Wait. Don’t forget, I’m still using that pirated Spotify app. I thought you should know, I mean I didn’t want to but if
they’re not going to make it available here, in Ghana—then, e’be as e’be!
***
When I look at the rejections in my mail & my submittable, instead of crying I thank God for all the good-good people, all the loves, all the fam, all the friends I’ve been blessed with because of poetry—people I wouldn’t have met if not for poetry. People I wouldn’t have had the chance to love in all the silly ways I love.


You—my loves, my everythings—I may not always remember how we met & how we friended but I will love you like that, how it feels to fly & I will need you—on this loving. I will need you. This is an assurance that I’m loving you to the very end—if there is & if there isn’t then I’m loving you forever. & whenever you’re awake at 2-something am or 3-something am or
whatever-time-something pm or am, know that wherever I be, I am loving you.

Bio: Henneh Kyereh Kwaku is a Ghanaian writer and the author of Revolution of the Scavengers, selected by Kwame Dawes and Chris Abani for the APBF New Generation African Poets Chapbook Series. Twitter/IG: @kwaku_kyereh & Henneh Kyereh Kwaku on Facebook.

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