Five Poems in Remembrance of Gilles Dossou-Gouin

by  translated by Rina Ferrarelli  /  October 24, 2016  / No comments

Mount Tabor. Image via: Wikimedia Commons.

Mount Tabor. Image via: Wikimedia Commons.

Gilles Doussou-Gouin was a poet from Benin, who arrived with his wife and children as Molde’s first ICORN writer-in residence in August of 2005. In his home country, he had been beaten and imprisoned for writing lyrics that the authorities disapproved of, and managed to escape. Gilles was a prolific writer, who wrote 1,5000 pages of drama, poetry, and short stories during his first six months in Molde. His first poetry collection, Å bestå (Subsist), was published in 2008, En fremmed I Hustadvika (A stranger in Hustadvika) in 2010, Tunge nøkler in 2013 and a poetry/music project Et annet blikk (A different glance) in 2014.

Read more about Gilles’s life and work on ICORN.org.

Sampsonia Way is pleased to publish these five poems in honor of Gilles’s work giving voice to the voiceless, and in remembrance of his life.

Out of Our Graves

In nature
the pansy is about to open its petals.
The moon refuses to spread its reflections
into the depths of water.
A marvel that’s Geirenger’s grave
where paradise tells its beads
to open our eyes
to take us out of our graves.

Hors de nos fosses.

A la nature,
la pensée vient d’ouvrir ses pétales.
La lune refuse d’étendre ses reflets
dans la profondeur des eaux.
Merveilles que les fosses de Geiranger
Où le paradis égrène son chapelet
Pour nous ouvrir nos yeux
Pour nous porter hors de nos fosses.

Tanken åpner sin dør

Tanken åpner sin dør,
månen nekter å falle
ned i havet.
Paradiset går i ledd
i tåken fra mine ord,
mørket omkring Geirangers foss,
jeg åpnet øynene mine.


  1. Gilles Dossou-Gouin was a writer and human rights activist from Benin. His first novel was published in 1996. It received nationwide attention and criticism for its satirical sociopolitical content. Doussou-Gouin went into exile in Senegal to escape negative attention. His second novel, The Black Cry of the Negro, was published in 2003 with the assistance of UNESCO. From 2007 to 2009, Gilles Doussou-Gouin was the ICORN writer-in-residence of the Molde City of Refuge in Sweden. He passed away in September, 2016.

A Rainbow Appears

Under the bulb’s incandescence
the meteorologist forgets the glimmers of weather.
Evenings turn gray, close.
The soothsayer predicts
when the midnight sun will change its rituals.
Birds on park benches
speculate on the weather.
Suddenly, the bells of nature begin to chime,
onion bulbs sprout,
the midnight sun changes its vestments.
Then a rainbow appears.
Here nature is the master of weather.
Weathermen,
a passing fancy.

L’apparition de l’arc-en-ciel

Sous l’incandescence de l’ampoule
le météorologue oublie les lueurs du temps.
Les soirées virent au gris, lourd.
Le devin prédit
quand le soleil de minuit change d’apparats.
Les oiseaux sur les bancs du parc
spéculent sur le temps.
Soudain les cloches de la nature carillonnent,
Les bulbes d’oignons éclosent
Le soleil de minuit change ses vêtements.
Puis l’arc-en- ciel apparaît.
Ici la nature est le maître du temps.
Les météorologues,
une plaisanterie.

Regnbuens ankomst

Under osramslampens sol,
meterologer; Hør her,
nye kvelder gryr.
Solnatten bytter hverdagsklær,
Fuglene på en benk i parken,
vedder
når dagens klokker
kimer.
Løker langt borte.
Regnbuens ankomst.
Meterologene, sier du,
bare tull.
Naturen er tidens nøkler.


Of Our Egos

The mountain chains stretch out
in their immensity
the depth of their high peaks,
the depths of our egos
our depths as ramblers,
in summer
the high mountains’ black mass
which is our pride.

De nos egos

Les chaînes de montagnes étirent
dans leur immensité
la profondeur de leurs hautes cimes,
les profondeurs de nos egos
nos profondeurs de randonnée,
en été
noires masses de montagnes hautes
qui sont nos orgueils.

Natur

Natur og gatene tiltrekker seg fjellene,
fjellets høyder, disse høye fjellene,
klatrerenes fjell, sommerdagens fjell, svarte lass,
himmelens høye fjell
som er høydenes høyde.


Scatology in the Valleys of Zion

On that day, hurricanes will laugh
in the infinity of their void.
The lights of galaxies will gather
in the valleys of Jacob’s mountains,
the nights sparkle in the thorny woods.
On that day, the last will be first
under the veil of a cold universe.

Eschatologie dans les vallées de Sion

Ce jour-là, les ouragans riront
dans l’infinité de leur vacuité.
Les lumières des galaxies se rassembleront
dans la vallée des montagnes de Jacob,
Les nuits étincelleront dans les forêts épineuses.
Ce jour-là, les derniers seront premiers
sous le voile de l’univers froid.

I Jakobsens bakker

Den dag da
stormene ler
i endeløs tomhet:
Galaksenes lys samler seg
i Jakobsens bakker, nettene lyser
i svarttornet skog.
Den dag da
omega blir alpha,
kaldt storhav dampende.
Kosmos tankeslør.


On Mount Tabor

Semi-dark, tumultuous waves
tall above the water
at dawn
on Mount Tabor.
Flames join death
on the Tabor of our days.
They dance, dance,
let the enemy fear!
Flames of blood,
burning tears,
bleeding words.
The Lord, in anger,
Not!
Yesterday’s Tabor,
reunion of honor.
Today the world has lost its crown of peace.
The wrinkles of roses
become the bells of hatred.
Blood that drips
like mouths that weep.
Heads without bodies that laugh
when the bells of the muezzin ring,
every half hour,
every hour.
inside our hearts,
the storm,
the woods,
under the threat of death.
Tanks, vehicles,
hot water launchers,
rain of grenades, everything goes through here.
Men take part in war,
come back from war, go back to war.
And they keep on going there
their ways long, and very long
the path from my door to hell.
And how much longer still ?
I have no idea.

Au Mont Tabor

Vagues mi – obscures, tumultueuses
Elevées au-dessus de l’eau,
à l’aube
au Mont Tabor.
Les flammes se rejoignent
sur le Tabor de nos jours avec la mort.
Elles dansent, dansent,
peur pour l’ennemi!
Des flammes de sang,
des l’armes brûlantes,
Des mots sanglants.
Le Seigneur, en colère,
Non!
Le Tabor d’hier,
réunion d’honneur.
Aujourd’hui le monde a perdu sa couronne de paix.
Les rides de roses
devenues des cloches de haine.
Le sang qui coule,
comme des bouches qui pleurent.
Des têtes- sans-corps qui rient,
quand les cloches du muezzin sonnent,
toutes les demi-heures,
toutes les heures
dans les cœurs,
la tempête,
les bois,
sous la menace de la mort.
Tanks, véhicules,
lanceurs d’eau chaude,
pluie de grenades, tout y passe.
Les hommes participent à la guerre,
en reviennent et repartent.
Et ils continuent d’y aller
par des chemins longs, et très longs
de ma porte aux enfers
Et pour combien de temps encore?
Je ne le sais point.

Dagens Tabor

Halvmørke, stigende over vannet,
stormende bølger
i Tabors morgengry.
Flammene møte
i dagens Tabor med døden.
De danser, danser,
frykt
for fienden!
Flammende blod,
brennende tåre, ord.
Herre, sint i lufta, nei!
Tabor i går
æres møtet.
Dagens tid,
verden, har mistet kronbladene.
Rynkerosene er blitt til flatklokkehatt.
Blod som renner,
mens munnen gråter.
Kroppsløse hoder som smiler,
da ørets klokker kimer
hver halvtime

Au Mont Tabor

Vagues mi – obscures, tumultueuses
Elevées au-dessus de l’eau,
à l’aube
au Mont Tabor.
Les flammes se rejoignent
sur le Tabor de nos jours avec la mort.
Elles dansent, dansent,
peur pour l’ennemi !
Des flammes de sang,
des larmes brûlantes,
Des mots sanglants.
Le Seigneur, en colère,
Non!
Le Tabor d’hier,
réunion d’honneur.
Aujourd’hui le monde a perdu sa couronne de paix.
Les rides de roses
devenues des cloches de haine.
Le sang qui coule,
comme des bouches qui pleurent.
Des têtes- sans-corps qui rient,
quand les cloches du muezzin sonnent,
toutes les demi-heures,
toutes les heures
dans les cœurs,
la tempête,
les bois,
sous la menace de la mort.
Tanks, véhicules,
lanceurs d’eau chaude,
pluie de grenades, tout y passe.
Les hommes participent à la guerre,
en reviennent et repartent.
Et ils continuent d’y aller
par des chemins longs, et très longs
de ma porte aux enfers
Et pour combien de temps encore?
Je ne le sais point.

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