Ode to the Republic by Crystal Foretia

How strange is it?
That I’ve known you all my life,
and yet I’ve never met you—

A world so foreign, yet so close to my own

because I see you,
when my eyes spot
green, red, and yellow stripes dangling 
    off the Toyota’s rearview
black warrior masks across 
    from my grandfather in grayscale.

Because I touch you,
when my fingers graze
the dashikis my brother wore
    before T’Challa made them cool
a crimson gele my mother designed
    to crown herself queen, before the photographer.

Because I taste you,
when my tongue melts under
fufu and eru soup
soft as mashed potatoes on the Thanksgiving table
plantains and puff puff
childhood fried to golden brown.

Because I hear you,
when my ears catch
AfroBeats played at graduation parties
    now featuring Akon and Beyoncé
Pidgin that Grandma whispers,
    from the corner of Nigeria and Chad.

Between lost plans and sepia-tone stories
I wonder how it would feel

to hug family I never knew,

to cross villages I only dreamt of,

to reach a home away from home

to bridge the gulf between 

“African”       and       “American”

Crystal Foretia is a sophomore studying Political Science and History at Columbia University and daughter of Cameroonian immigrants. Her poetry was first published in Surgam, the literary magazine of Columbia’s Philolexian Society. Ms. Foretia serves as Online Editor for Columbia Undergraduate Law Review and Lead Activist for Columbia University Democrats.

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