When death mingles with beauty and the ripe fruit bears venom,
it’s here, in this roiling furnace, that the traveler stops in their tracks.
What if tomorrow is a day without awakening?

You aren’t listening to me

I’m after a love
that will not abandon me
not to these times
not at this hour

I want to let
light feathers of the wind
flutter in me

You aren’t listening to me

I need to scale heaven’s steps
hang from the stars
return to the world
root myself in the soil
of centuries old trees

You aren’t listening to me

I’m after a love
like a shower of hope
neither predatory
nor poisonous
that won’t shove me
in the back
that won’t plant
seeds of bitterness in my soul

You aren’t listening to me

We no longer have enough joys
to share
love goes away


Life has fallen in

lock the future
in their sights

Unrecognizable the sun
Unrecognizable the days before

Obscene corpses 

Death was there
death descended
armed to the teeth
death was there
at close range
in the city streets

The war, I tell you

Without breath without sky without tomorrow
we, always alone
sterile through and through


From the horror – now – we shall build the tombs for our resurrection. Clean the soil with
buckets of water. Get rid of blood, stone, skin, hands, memories mixed dirty in the soul.
The earth stumbles, tumbles, sinks. The city coughs, spits, vomits on the streets.
The comings and
the concessions, huddled in one room, all together in misery.

The war, I tell you

How long will it take
to learn
how to live
together again?


The rain falls

On the debris of broken life

bruised plants
sallow animals
vaulted beings
on the split city
thirsting for justice

The rain falls

our hopes
drop by drop
step by step

I don’t know how to love anymore

With you
it’s always the last time
like you’ll never hold me again
as if our bodies were already apart

With you
it’s always the last time
every moment
each embrace

With you
I have moved backwards
I have advanced straight ahead
to nowhere

Despair smiles
strangles me
smothers my eyes

tramples my heart

my skin is peeling
under the blazing intensity of
a former sun

Far from the shambles

Far from speed
far from the burning heat
I wish nothing but the end
of desire







Véronique Tadjo is an award winning writer, academic and painter from Côte d’Ivoire/France. Born in Paris, she grew up in Abidjan where she did most of her studies. She then completed a doctorate at the Sorbonne, Paris IV and was a Fulbright scholar at Howard University in Washington, DC. She has lived in Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg where she was Head of French and Francophone Studies at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg until 2015. Tadjo writes poetry, novels and books for young people. Her work often crosses genres and has been translated into several languages including English: The Blind Kingdom (1991), As the Crow Flies (2001), The Shadow of ImanaTravels in the Heart of Rwanda (2002), Queen Pokou (2005), which was awarded Le Grand Prix Littéraire d’Afrique Noire, Laterite/Red earth (2006), Far from My Father (2014), and In the Company of Men (2021), a novel based on the Ebola epidemic in West Africa that was a Boston Globe summer reading pick and a MS. Magazine most-anticipated read of the year. Tadjo shares her time between London and Abidjan.


Todd Fredson is the author of several books of poetry and poetry in translation as well as of literary criticism and scholarship on West African poetics. His translation of Ivorian poet Tanella Boni’s collection The Future Has an Appointment with the Dawn (University of Nebraska Press, 2018) was a finalist for the 2019 Best Translated Book Award in poetry and the 2019 National Translation Award. His translation of Boni’s collection Là où il fait si clair en moi There where it’s so bright in me will be out in Fall 2022 (University of Nebraska Press). His translations of Bété poet Azo Vauguy’s book-length poems, Zakwato and Loglêdou’s Peril are forthcoming as a double-translation in Spring 2023 (Action Books).