I long to walk on the shores
of your beaches,
touch the cool Atlantic—
A horizon of nothing.
I want to taste your beer,
smoke cigarettes with the middle-aged men
in the open-air bars that are in-service
from late afternoon to the early hours of the morning.
To step into the terra-cotta clay mud
of your dirt roads in the countryside
and glide on the smooth pavement of Yaoundé.
To be stared at as I shop in the markets,
be called “foreigner”, “stranger”, “American”
in the native tongues.
To speak broken French with my Francophone family,
nearly perfected English with my Anglophone side,
and eavesdrop on the surrounding conversations
spoken in Pidgin.
I know more than they think, ha-ha.
To savor your smoked barracuda,
long for it to be in every dish…
To glare at the statues commemorating imperialists…
To devour the fried plantains cooked as a midday snack.
To be stung by your mosquitoes
as I hike in your national parks.
To be embraced by my fellow countrymen and women
as if I had been born and bred there.
Hyla Etame (she/her) is a writer from Southern California of Cameroonian heritage. Hyla is a first-year student at the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, studying English Literature and Creative Writing. Her writing often meditates on nature, everyday experiences, and her identity. During her high school career, she was a member of WriteGirl and her poem “The Nonexistent Divide Between Land and Air” was published in their 2019 anthology. Her poem “Heaven on Earth,” which she describes as “a love letter to the desert,” was published in the Inlandia Institute’s Spring 2021 Volume XII Teen Issue. Currently, she’s writing the second draft of her novel about a teenager living in an egalitarian pure communist society and hopes to publish it as soon as it’s complete.