Glenis Redmond: January 2021

Summon

Call him. Raise him up out the seat.
Free of window shield.
Free of neck break.

Give your mama something more
than the bits and pieces
that she has patched together.

Resurrect the man,
the mahogany frame.
Give her a chance
to stand by her dad––
hold his hand
lifeline to lifeline extending
beyond the four years
that she knew him.

Stoke and stir
turn and turn
until the mist
gives up the memory,
more than ghost
more than the echo
that fills your bones.

Until you see him: Will Todd
a gentle apparition.
Hear the quiet wind of his voice,
the hum of his words
as he tells you how he followed the crops
season to season without fear.
Learn how he walked
upon the red clay with a soft foot.

Rewind. Stop just before
the 1939 Laurens County State Fair.
Pull back his hand pushed by gravity
to purchase the winning ticket
of the black sleek Chevrolet.

Cut short the joyride
and the fast road into fate
smooth out the hard curve,
the mean turn. Leave his life
to more than chance teetering
on a fickle raffle with the highest stakes.

Raise him up out the seat
free of window shield
free of neck break.
Stoke and stir
pull and prod.
Bring him back
conjured and whole.

I Lost the Baby

Not as in couldn’t find, but as in perished.
I lost my child
and still I was in search.
He found me, in my bed busy dreaming.

I lost my child:
blond hair, hazel eyes, skin really fair.
He found me in my bed, busy dreaming.
He kissed me awake, though I was still asleep.

Blond hair, hazel eyes, skin really fair
shining like a familiar son.
He kissed me awake, though I was still asleep
saying, I will tell Amber and Celeste there’s no school, snow!

Shining like a familiar son,
how did he find us since we’ve moved three times?
He said, Mom, I will tell Amber and Celeste there’s no school, snow!
Bedside you stood 12 years old, Cameron.

How did you find us since we’ve moved three times?
You stood bedside 12 years old, Cameron,
with a quiet glow, I am not lost, Mom, I’m here. I’m still here.

Ritual

My grief drives me to the barbershop.
Tells Tony to cut my shoulder-length hair

to the quick. He hesitates until
he catches what lingers in my eyes.

Six black barbers click into place,
form a circle of silence around me.

Whitney Houston’s voice graces
the moment from the speakers overhead,

For every win someone must fail…
there comes a time when you must exhale.

The last brown tuft drifts to the floor
as the song ends. The men standing

like warriors break ranks. Tony takes off
the cape and I step out into the harsh light

of day with my head bare as a bulb.
Grief drives me home.

Two days later in the doctor’s office,
I come across a National Geographic.

The article speaks to me. It says:
The Masai shave their heads in mourning.

I bend mine, shorn,
 let grief in.

For the first time —
I cry for my lost child.

On the Way to Grandma’s Funeral



                    The woods are dangerous.
                     
— Little Red Riding Hood


You set a South Carolina record, 
for footprints. 109 years is a long time 

for anyone to walk down a road.
My memory of you is as soft as the calico

housedresses that you wore.
The day you left, a quiet in us got up

and went too. We felt the terror rip through us
just like those large X’d flags waved

their heated tongues on the way to Waterloo
to bury you. They said nothing.

They said everything. How you meted your days
in Upstate heat. Coaxed flowers 

like your head, unbowed and unbossed.
Your red Canna Lilies flaming like your spirit,

the tallest of tall; our limousine, a submarine,
sailed along holding your only living child:

mama and her five. We did not talk of the four flags
that we floated by, but we counted them all.

I don’t even know how the talk started,
of our top three desserts. Willie says:

1) sweet potato pie, 2) sweet potato pie,
3) that would be more sweet potato pie.


We rode on this laughter that you would have loved,
joined in with Hush yo mouth chile.

You’d be proud of how we turned our heads,
away from hate: fixed our minds on sweet thangs

that stirred you 39,872 mornings
to lift from your bed, to rise.

What Flowers?

I will take spring early this year:
yellow Daffodils and Tulips with cups of color.

Last Spring the doctor handed me a diagnosis: 
Stage three Multiple Myeloma.

I survived the three-week hospital stay
and the high dose chemotherapy.

I emerge bald head looking like my own ancestor. 
In the mirror, I strengthen my stance.

Found my resolve.
I lost my hair, not my hope.

BIO:
Glenis Redmond travels nationally and internationally reading and teaching and performing poetry. She is a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist and has had two poet-in- Resident posts at the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville, SC and the State Theatre in New Brunswick, NJ. Glenis has been the mentor poet for the National Student Poets Program since 2014.  In the past she has prepared these exceptional youth poets to read at the Library of Congress, the Department of Education, and for First Lady Michelle Obama at The White House. Glenis is a Cave Canem Fellow and a North Carolina Literary Fellowship Recipient. She also helped create the first Writer-in-Residence at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

She has most recently been awarded the highest award for the Arts in the state of South Carolina, The Governor’s Award. Also, she will receive the “Charlie Award,” given in memory of Charles Price granted by the Carolina Mountains Literary Festival in the Fall of 2020. In 2014-20, Glenis has served as the Mentor Poet for the National Student Poet’s Program Her latest book, “The Listening Skin” will be published by Four Way Books in 2022.

Author and T&W Board member Tayari Jones selected Glenis Redmond’s essay, “Poetry as a Mirror,” as the runner-up for the 2018 Bechtel Prize. Teachers & Writers Collaborative awards the annual Bechtel Prize to the author of an essay that explores themes related to creative writing, arts education, and/or the imagination.   Redmond’s “Dreams Speak: My Father’s Words” was chosen for third place for the North Carolina Literary Review’s James Applewhite Prize and “Sketch,” “Every One of My Names,” and “House: Another Kind of Field will be published in NCLR in 2019. These poems are about —Harriet Tubman, the most famous conductor of the underground railroad; Harriet Jacobs, who escaped from slavery and became an abolitionist, and the author of Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl; and Harriet E. Wilson, who was held as an indentured servant in the North and went on to become an important novelist, businesswoman, and religious speaker.

Glenis believes that poetry is a healer, and she can be found in the trenches across the world applying pressure to those in need, one poem at a time.  
Visit Glenis at www.glenisredmond.com   Instagram: glenismakingpoetryreign

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