Poems

PATRON HENEKOU
Chicago
(translation by Connie Voisine)

Chicago,

through the window of my hotel room
a mural, three emoticons, offers me smiles. I
send my feeling back to them across the void,
connecting occupants to buildings. Nighttime,
lights invade your streets and sky
as if to defenestrate the night
descending. Festival city of light,
you do not host darkness, Chicago.

Far away, over there on the other side of the water
where pleasure boats drag
stands Trump Tower, a box of glasswork and
light that cuts to the sky’s dazzled quick,
mixing arrogance with the chill,
naked, shocking, sharp. Apart from the cruel cold,
Chicago’s mask is the size of its ugliness,
a few black strokes projecting its
underground lives.

I like returning to my window every morning
to contemplate the three smiles on that building,
staged for my wonder. What are these three
faces tucked away at the top of this city of double standards,
blinding glass and light? Chicago’s dark cavity
will be exposed, surrounded by furrows of fires,
and these smiling faces will laugh their heads off.

Chicago,

Ă  travers la fenĂȘtre de ma chambre d’hĂŽtel
tes trois Ă©moticons me font un sourire. Je
leur rends la sympathie saisie dans le vide
qui unit ces Ă©tages Ă  leurs occupants. Le soir,
les lumiĂšres envahissent tes rues et ton ciel
comme pour défenestrer la nuit
qui y descend. Ville du festival de lumiĂšres,
tu n’hĂ©berges pas l’obscuritĂ©. Chicago !

Au loin, lĂ -bas, de l’autre cĂŽtĂ© du corps d’eau
sur lequel traĂźnent des bateaux de plaisir
se dresse Trump Tower, une boĂźte de vitreries et
de lumiÚres taillées sur le vif éblouit le ciel

de toute son arrogance Ă  laquelle se mĂȘle le froid
d’ici, nu, osĂ©, tranchant. Hormis ce froid cruel
Chicago a fait un masque Ă  la taille de sa laideur,
postée dans quelques traits noirs au large de ses
vies superposées.

J’aime revenir Ă  ma fenĂȘtre chaque matin
contempler les trois sourires de cet immeuble
en face de ma curiosité. Que cachent ces trois
visages au sommet de cette ville Ă  double face,
aux vitres et lumiĂšres aveuglantes ? Cette carie
coffrée sortira au milieu des sillons de feux à
l’heure oĂč ces masques feront le rire de leur vie.

Patron Henekou is a poet and playwright, and co-organizer of the Festival of Literature and Arts (FesLArts) at University of LomĂ©, Togo. He writes in French and English, and translates. His poems have appeared in anthologies such as Palmes pour le TogoArbolarium: AntologĂ­a poĂ©tica de los cinco continentes, and Best “New” African Poets 2017 Anthology, and in poetry journals such as AFROpoĂ©sieRevue des Citoyens des LettresAquifer: The Florida Review Online, and Kalahari Review. His published works include a play in English, Dovlo, or A Worthless Sweat (2015), a poetry book in French entitled Souffles d’outre-cƓur (2017), and a poetry chapbook Souffles & faces (2018). Henekou was a Langston Hughes Fellow at the 2018 Palm Beach Poetry Festival.

Connie Voisine is the author of the new book of poems, The Bower, a book-length poem about her family’s time in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Her previous books, Calle Florista, and Rare High Meadow of Which I Might Dream are also published by University of Chicago Press. Rare High Meadow was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Award. Her first book, Cathedral of the North, won the Associated Writing Program’s Award in Poetry. She has poems published in The New Yorker, Poetry Magazine, and elsewhere. Her work was featured at The Lab at Belmar, a museum show pairing prehistoric stone tools with poems. Voisine was a Fulbright Fellow in the School of English at Queen’s University in 2012 and a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow.