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Toni Morrison in New York on Nov. 17, 2008. Ms. Morrison's sincerity and the power of her words never fail to impress.

DAMON WINTER/The New York Times

We all know Toni Morrison through her writing and film. I had the privilege of attending a reading she gave and of meeting her briefly. Her sincerity and the power of her words never fail to impress. She combined extraordinary tenderness and sensitivity with passion. I shall never forget her.

I hear you, Toni Morrison,

Your words rising on a Southern morn

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Scented honeysuckle sweet with dew

Like the mist before a storm.

I hear you, Toni Morrison

Your sobs, your anger crackling

Like heat lightning in July

Tearing through your pages.

I hear you, Toni Morrison

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Your dream like yesterday,

Woven with strands of hope

Imbued with knowing despair.

My eyes can no longer close

So much the tears flow,

So little changes.

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I hear shards of shattering glass

Scarring the heart of the land

Like branding irons

Searing sadness into the hills of history,

So much to overcome.

Dr. Roseann O’Reilly Runte is president and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

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