by Yvonne Onakeme Etaghene 

for most of my life I had no idea what a guava was
until one manhattan morning a couple years ago I tasted it
knew that gritty, sweet, grainy flavor but not the name
the taste catapulted me back to my childhood in Nigeria
Lagos streets saturated with masquerade costumes scary enough to make
my feet race for cover faster than thudding heart thunder beats
palm leaf skin palm oil blood
red soil sizzling to a slow boil
that I’ve spent so many years away from,
my Ijaw-Urhobo soul feels translated into english/shoved onto highlife turntables
expected to spin/instead just excessively literate in everything
but what’s indigenous to my skin.
the afrobeat hip hop on the vinyl of me djs the remix that is my
where the sound of my own voice grates like a stranger’s in my ears
oyibo returning home, abi?

sweet bitter syrup-thick malt
aricocoa-spiced ogbono soup
never feeling Nigerian enough
sugarcane-lined dusty roads
agege bread soft as freshly picked afro
traffic gridlocked on the go slow
it’s the go slow cuz you go slow on it
a symphony of shouts and curses is my afrobeat Naija lullaby

after 10 black ice-coated syracuse winters,
4 corn field-frozen oberlin winters,
4 brick new york city winters
I swan        flew         tiptoed         ran
relative after relative came by to visit, I disappoint
they want computers, ipods, dollars
I want hugs, to dance, eat egusi soup, eba.
I wrap my pain in ankara and cowrie shells
they want to know when I’m getting married, they worry I have no children
I want to hear stories about family that I forgot I knew
like guava
immigration to america has you
forgetting who you are/then remembering
then never feeling good enough

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