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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

UNDER THE SUN, by Glenis Redmond


poems by
Glenis Redmond
Main Street Rag Books
ISBN 13: 978-1-59948-133-3
140 pages, $14.95

(Glenis Redmond)

Glenis Redmond is a 2005-2006 North Carolina Arts Council Literary Award recipient and a Denny C. Plattner Award winner for Outstanding Poetry sponsored by the Appalachian Heritage journal. She has been inducted in the Mt. Xpress' Hall of Fame for Best Poet in Western North Carolina after winning for over seven years. She is a Kennedy Teaching Artist and her work has aired on National Public Radio. She is a past winner of the Southern Fried Slam and a finalist of National Poetry Slam.

She has been published most recently in Meridians, African Voices, EMRYS, The Asheville Poetry Review, 2006 Kakalak: A Journal of Carolina Poets, Appalachian Heritage and the Appalachian Journal. Glenis is a native of Greenville, South Carolina. She presently resides in Asheville, North Carolina with her twin daughters Amber and Celeste.


UNDER THE SUN is the long awaited birthing of poetry with purpose, a muse claiming and renaming seasons, needing no permissions, no namesakes. Glenis Redmond's word womb has burst leaking truth, grace, healing and celebration. The ground of her literary newness becomes more sacred as it receives this powerful afterbirth… libations of anointed ink.

Jaki Shelton Green


for more, go to

Six poems by Glenis Redmond


Name every nighttime shadow.
Call them out
from every corner,
every crevice of the past.
Fill yourself with the power
named survival.
Your voice will flower silver
into a circle blooming
of compassionate witnesses,
burning trembling lights.
In the brightness
my voice becomes your voice,
your voice becomes mine.
Together, our voices form
a tight constellation of hope,
a calligraphy written in stars.



I stand at the door reverberating spring
hundreds of quiet mouths pink mouths speaking,
April’s here the month of the poet.
So they too gather blaring hard wrung words
even harder wrung feelings.
Congregations gather to hear hums of love
And richters of sorrow.
Each poem opens the heart.
This is the work of poets and flowers
centerpieces punctuating passages
keeping the door open during death and bliss.
Blooms silent with beauty, bards lit with language
witnessing both joy and grief testifying in full bloom.


A Simple Act

Tribute to Fannie Lou Hamer (1917 - 1977)
There is power in a simple act,
an intelligent step,
overriding the ignorance of labor to no end.
When did her deliverance take hold?
Spirit quaking
sending a wave through the whisper of the song
she sang,
we’ve come to know so well.
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine.
On that day, what was the particular?
Was it the white-hot summer sun
or one piece of cotton
adding up to one too many on her back?
Adding fuel to a spirit
ready to jump free of the land
that tied her by slight of hand.
Was it the wisdom of God?
I believe it was
singing to her bones
humming a freedom she only dreamed but never knew.
She became a vessel full of the Holy Ghost
or ghosts of ancient sisters and brothers singing.
It is time sistah, keep the faith, rise.
She could have remained planted there,
her heart and spirit yoked like solid mounds.
Instead the burning bush came to her in the field.
Turned her into the Rock of Gibraltar, moving,
wrestling with fate in downtown doors
leading to white marbled halls—
ready to vote
take pass any test
cross the line
Where God done signed her name.


The doctor says, disc deterioration.
In other words, my father is losing his spine.
My next thought is the children’s song
that teaches the anatomy of bones,
the terrain of the body
the thighbone connected to the hipbone
the hipbone connected to the backbone
the backbone connected to the....
My next thought quiets my singing in one solid knowing moment,
I realize my father has been losing his spine a little all along.
If this poem were about forgiveness,
If I knew where his pain began,
I would take my index finger,
trace it along that beginning of the Ivory Coast.
At the base of his head, the Medulla Oblongata,
I would sing it into being on that Virginia Plantation.
Along the Thoracic vertebrae
I would call him out of that slavery,
release the yokes and chains of his sharecropper past.
I would chant Cherokee,
and Seminole
out of the chakra of his throat.
I would follow his trail of tears
leading down the curve of his back,
the Lumbar and the Sacral regions,
and walk along flanks of cotton in his Jim Crow history.
I would stand next to him,
that malnourished man-child at the Air Force recruitment office
as he spreads the poison spiriting himself away
all with the signing of his name until he is only a misted ghost.
I would be there calling him back from all the torn places,
rattling bones,
blowing smoke into this shadow of a shadow,
balancing the forces of air too harsh
for one already prone to breaking.
Maybe just maybe this signing was his one holy act;
bench pressing the family,
and the whole of his past beyond any weight he lifted before.
Maybe this was the beginning of bones breaking.
But [comma out here] he picked them up anyway, his shape skeletal and bare.
He configured himself into the shape of leaving,
an internal dowsing rod,
a compass pointing magnetic north,
anything leading away to take him from before.
A drought of rain is severe.
A drought of marrow is devastation.
If my weight could hold it,
I would lift him to a tender liquid light
like the others, who looked on him from his youth,
and called him Sonny Boy.
He, a good looking slender man with hope in his eyes.
I’d spy that slim child placing his polished boot upon promise.
I would pour into him his calcium-spent self where ivory keys could not fortify.
Taking him down dark alleys into the pool-shark dens
no matter how many gigs played and clubs inhabited.
The spirit knows bones feed on calcium and light.
Tender fingers slid over keys eventually leading to bars,
leading to his favorite amber liquids of Jack Daniels and Jim Beam.
Maybe he tried to be present both there and here.
Maybe the slave in him revolted,
the Indian in him rose up,
the pianist within him began to play tunes.
But he is sitting now
sitting with the weight of all that soldiering,
he believed to be a pocket guide for better living.
Marching him through straight rows of cotton
into pouring stiff drinks of Old Grand-Dad,
Crown Royal and handed him a case of Black Label.
Taught him to raise hell all night,
as long as he was straight and squared away in formation
by 0600 that morning.
Our nights and weekends, his second job.
Our house on alert with the Sergeant in him in command,
and the liquid amber out of control.
He patrolled the halls of our lives on midnight shifts
cloaked with the wrath of Jack and two types of Jim.
With battle fatigue we addressed the casualties of war.
A son visibly wounded in the fight,
wearing scars to school like a uniform no second grader should have to bear.
The teacher reports to the base commander,
the base commander barks orders
“study war no more in the home
or be dishonorably discharged.”
What they caught and taught they didn’t treat.
Fist turned instead into verbal missiles
launching into our deepest centers.
Yet we carried on like soldiers on a tour of duty
with a sense of purpose,
standard operating procedure.
Survival our greatest mission.
We were hemmed in by heavy-handed creases,
lost in the spit-shine of shoes and high polished brass,
living between the stiff finger salute,
standing at attention for inspection.
Our straight backs gave way to gradual wear and tear
of never being at ease.
Our familial bones breaking,
a slow de-ossification.
If this poem were about forgiveness,
our foundation would begin to mend [comma out]
where it never took hold;
our sergeant in charge leading the way,
a crooked man walking with wings.


for Katie Latimore’s  Birthday, 101
Staring into Katie Latimore’s eyes
I go straight into heaven,
rest in a blueness not here on earth.
With her I feel a certain mercy
I have never known.
She who grew hollyhocks, hibiscus, hydrangeas
and drew every stray cat in the county.
She who when not pickin’ cotton,
grew vegetables in her yard,
fished in her spare time.
Rachel’s daughter,
her mother born a slave,
bore sixteen children.
She in those desperate
dangerous times
held aspirations beyond the third grade
but never made it to that one-room schoolhouse.
Her knowledge was of another understanding,
a candle lit by the Almighty.
When I am wise I sit there and study her blue flame.
She smoked her Winston 100’s,
inhaled a little,
letting the ash grow
until it fell like withered dreams beneath her feet.
She drank her Coca-Cola like medicine,
loved her potatoes sweet.
She made me thru my mother
thru and thru ‘til
I am what I am
which is why even now,
I have a penchant for all things old;
never been particular about the new.
It is why I gave birth to two incredibly old women. 
I called them the Delaney sisters.  
They came that way.
It is their spirit not their age.  
She, my mother’s mother, I am not calling a saint
but is there anybody living who would want to walk in her shoes?
She has earned the glory of these words,
any respite they might bring.
She with her jet black ambition
tied to her hands,
her running feet
running thru cane fields,
cotton fields
always somebody else’s
sharecropped land.
She deserves to run,
fight, do battle no more.
Lay it all down by the riverside.
But she is in the nursing home
with a fire, a rage burning bright.
I know because sometimes,
she won’t let no white hand touch her.
When I leave there, She whispers,
“Loves everybody, Chile,
no matter how black,
how blue,
how brown,
or how white,
loves everybody.”
For in those times
she was running water
clear, clean in that ingrown South
where revolution never happened,
not even now.
She was
IS the point of my inspiration,
showing me the revolution
is in staying alive.
I don’t know what happened to her
101 years of living in the south.
I only know
She is closer to God
than anyone I have ever known.
Coming from a shattered past,
imagine heartache after heartache,
outlasting the death of almost everyone,
lasting 101 years of living.
What are we gonna say
to that black woman?
We gonna look around pretend she not there?
What we gonna say to 101 years
of having no monuments erected in her name?
The only thing resurrected daily was the struggle and the fight.
What we gonna say to all those years of living?
If we want to be well,
we sit down and listen
with more than our ears.
The Unbearable Heat of South Carolina
for Langston Hughes

When I get to be a poet
I am going to pen poems
about the unbearable heat of South Carolina
and I am gonna put the color of the Carolina sky in it,
that perfect tint of springtime blue
wafting the perfume breeze of the yellow Jasmine,
calling to the Carolina Wren to rise.
And I am going put the frilly froof of the Mimosa in it
and thick generous Magnolia blooms
and the magenta of the Crepe Myrtle
trying to reach its [apostrophe out] twisted sister,
lavender Wisteria turning on its vine.
And I will talk of cotton,
corn and tobacco, too.
But mostly cotton.
And of those crooked tree trunk fingers
that picked the fabric of our lives
and how those large plantation foundations
were laid firm on humped and curved backs.
And I will put some gospel songs in it,
laced with the fire of West African chants,
singing of how these haunted beauties
dwarfed the shotgun shacks
next to sharecropped fields and factory mills.
And I will write down the chain
of broken black white people making a living on prayers--
Whispering the words, get by anyway you can.
And I will stand next to this quiet Palmetto faith
and understand the thunderstorms of the past grounded in red clay.
And I will release my own prayers of gravity
and hold tight to the belief
they will rise like the morning sun
and the nighttime crescent moon.
I will stand fast to the faith that carries my pen across blank pages
and I will sweat strong sweltering lines
of both celebration and woe
when I get to be a poet
and pen poems
of the unbearable heat of South Carolina.      

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