Posted by: Viola | August 5, 2014

Letter to a Cameroonian Man

Letter to a Cameroonian Man: A Prose Poem

by Viola Allo

Dear Beloved Friend from long ago: I know you will never see this letter. But I want to write it all the same. Because so much is on my mind. So much has been on my mind. And in truth, you have been on my mind. I have been thinking of the way we use to talk. Long ago. In Cameroon. So long ago but so fresh in my mind. How I used to long to see you. But how hard it was to talk to you. Would you even remember? Probably not. You said you loved me, said you wanted to marry me. But it was so hard to talk with you. So impossible to really talk. My words seemed to rush past you. To do nothing but brush you lightly, on the shoulder, perhaps, and disappear behind you. You did not listen to me. I tried to tell you that love and marriage were not right for me. But you did not listen. You said that you knew we were destined to be together. Of course, you knew so many things. You knew more than me, more than anybody in our city or the whole country. I wish that, for a moment, you would have just talked with me. Not about what you wanted. Not about marrying me. But about me. About what I wanted, how I saw the world, how I dreamed and what I longed for. We could have talked about me. But no, we always talked about you. Your studies. Your work. Your family. Your friends. Your world. It broke my heart every time. I wanted so much to be heard. But it is alright. It’s really all right now. We never married. And now, you are gone. You left this world too soon. You died before you could have truly lived. Or loved. And I now understand and appreciate that so much should have revolved around you back then, and all the time, in the short time that you lived. I now know how intensely and thoroughly you needed to exist for yourself. Perhaps, in your soul, you knew that your life would be cut short. Perhaps that’s why you spoke so easily of love and marriage. Of people possessing each other passionately, devotedly. And I am grateful now. For the many times we talked and talked of no one but you. Only you. I know so much about you. I remember so much of you, your words, your philosophies, your insecurities, your stresses. I remember the way you smelled, the clothes you wore, the texture of your hair, the manner of your eyes, the slant of your smile. I kept your notes and letters and poems and cards. And so now, on any given day, it’s easy for me to summon you back. To beckon to you, tall and lanky and handsome, in my memory. Beckon to you and see you walking again on the streets of Bamenda, and talking to me, asking me to marry you. All those years ago. Visiting me and embracing me, sheltering me in your vast, warm arms. Standing and holding me close, at the green, iron gate of my father’s house on Foncha Street. You, a Bamenda boy, and me, a Bamenda girl. Two sweet young people from Cameroon. Two people pulled apart by time and death. But we are still together, in my heart. Yes, still young and still sweet, in my memories. And someday we will meet again, and oh, what stories I will have for you. And I pray you’ll talk to me again, and truly listen to me, hold me and hear me speak, let me shine, just close your eyes and listen to me, let me lavish you with my words, let me bathe your soul in all the words I need to say.


By Viola Allo. All rights reserved. Contact the author for permission to use or share this poem.


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