by Patron Henekou

I was there in front of her
Listening as she spoke.
The words came out free,
But not smooth:
There was a faint tremolo in there
To spring the prairie in her
Smile. I sat there to
Catch the words but
Only the melody in them opened
Me and whiffed through the skin
Of my blood, like the stalks of a genocide.
Face to face first, then face to profile
her words came
With the same gloss
Like a work of art seated on a
Tanned street in the middle of
Gunshots and laughter and tears
Mixed with passionate kisses of lovers
parted in dreams of dictators.
I could see her heart run walk-walk
Then walk run-run beneath her breasts
Recounting past memories and family pains
While reaching for a word to draw her
In a sky of white clouds and
A moon laced with names of foreign lands in graffiti.
– In her office, her lips could not say my name so
She wrapped it in the pages of a hibiscus
And placed it in a poetry book inside her eyes. Run
Her left palm on the cover as if to
Take the flame in my name.
I stood and she stood with me
Now she passed through me and
Said, her eyes almost closed: how is your son, Sitou? –
I was sitting there beside her, in the restaurant
Her words stood out free,
Coated in a faint tremolo to
Spice the sun in her face. The melody in them
Opened me.


Patron Henekou writes poems and plays and co-organizes the Festival International des Lettres et des Arts (Festilarts) at Université de Lomé, Togo. He writes in French and English as well and translates. His poems have appeared in anthologies such as Palmes pour le Togo, Arbolarium, Antologia Poetica de Los Cinco Continentes, and The Best New African Poets Anthology 2017, and in poetry journals such as AFROpoésie, Revue des Citoyens des Lettres, Aquifer: The Florida Review Online, The Kalahari Review, and Better than Starbucks. His published books include a play in English, Dovlo, or A Worthless Sweat (2015) and two poetry books in French entitled Souffles d’outre-cœur (2017) and Souffles & faces (2018). Patron is the 2018 African American Fellow (now Langston Hughes Fellow) at the Palm Beach Poetry Festival in Delray, Florida.



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