Threnody for bell hooks, 1952-2021
 by Lonormi Manuel

She might not have seen the large woman,
the unhappy bride, the baby writer,
clutching a notebook, cloaked in awe,
trying to be unseen in that room of women.
Or perhaps she did see;
she was forever seeing what others ignored,
from the shrinking, shy, and ill-at-ease,
to the insubstantial illusions of justice, 
the someone-else's undone human chores.

When she read, her words and her voice
absorbed me, effortlessly, 
into the heart of all that poetry
has been, is, could be, should be:
a passionate love, reconstructed in words;
a life's work, allowed to sing.

She led me to a place where I could almost see,
could almost believe in,
that treasure of ever-changing name,
that prize sought by the seeker but so seldom found:
a feral peace, the peace of wild things, it was to me;
the hope in the heart that can only be seen
by kindred eyes.
Her eyes searched the faces and rested on the invisible;
her eyes, which saw the us we feared to reveal,
said I see you, child;
never be afraid to let them see you,
for we all deserve to be seen.

Lonormi Manuel is a native of southwest Virginia. She lives and writes on a farm in Anderson County, Kentucky.