Appalachian Elegy (excerpts)

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by bell hooks

Recorded by Karina Lutz

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snow-covered earth
such silence
still divine presence
echoes immortal migrants
all life sustained
darkness comes
suffering touches us
again and again
there is pain
there in the midst of
such harsh barrenness
a cardinal framed in the glass
red light
calling away despair
eternal promise
everything changes and ends

autumn ending
leaves like
fallen soldiers
manmade hard hearts
fighting battles on this once sacred ground
all killing done now
dirt upon dirt
covers all signs of death
memory tamped down
ways to not remember
the disappeared
dying faces
longing to be seen
one lone warrior lives
comes home to the hills
seeking refuge
seeking a place to surrender
the ground where hope remains
and souls surrender

here and there
across and down
treasure uncovered
remnants of ancient ways
not buried deep enough
excavated they surface
objects that say
some part of me
lived here before
reincarnated ancestors
give me breath
urge me—live again
return to familiar ground
hear our lost people speak


sometimes falling rain
carries memories of betrayal
there in the woods
where she was not meant to be
too young she believes
in her right to be free
in her body
free from harm
believing nature
a wilderness she can enter
be solaced
believing the power
that there be sacred place
that there can be atonement now
she returns with no fear
facing the past
ready to risk
knowing these woods now
hold beauty and danger

© 2012 by Gloria Jean Watkins (bell hooks) Reprinted with permission from Appalachian Elegy: Poetry and Place, University Press of Kentucky


bell hooks (1952-2021) was the author of more than thirty books, including Ain’t I a Woman? Black Women and Feminism, named by Publishers Weekly as one of the twenty most influential women’s books of the last twenty years.

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