top of page

Mama Teaches Me How to Survive

Glenis Redmond

Not to throw blame, just to say

my mama taught me how to be a mule,

how to carry beyond a full load

walk like I don’t feel no ways tired,

but I am. I ran out of gas twenty years ago,

but I drove myself on sheer will

and her words: You don’t have nothin to do?

I’ll find you something to do.

I took on her ways to earn my keep.

By age 11, I was on the lookout–

for what needs to be done.

Knee bent I scrubbed kitchen floors

grew my own garden from seed

hoed, raked, planted and weeded,

cooked meals for a family of seven,

deemed the best babysitter of the village.

For one family I cared for six boys,

their oldest was three years my elder,

but it was my charge they trusted.

I was raised to slave.  Women’s work

they say is never done, but I’m at my own ends

I feel tired always.

The doctor diagnosis: Adrenal Fatigue

on top of fibromyalgia

which sits on top of Chronic Fatigue

which sits on top of Irritable Bowel

which sits on top of a Leaky Gut

which sits on top Interstitial Cystitis

which sits on top TMJ

which sits on top of Carpal Tunnel

which is to say what Fannie Lou Hamer said,

I am sick in tired of being sick and tired.

Even in poetry I push my pen

beyond the margins. Ride words hard

with a necessary and urgent pulse

Slammed them–not content enough

to let them sit on pages. 

Find something to do

like my life depended on it.

Put poems on my back

carry their heavy weight onto stages

–my load my mama’s her mama’s and her mama’s too.

I traded the mule for a Mercedes

It’s got 340,000 miles every one

for poetry. I got drive on top of drive

I ride. The price of fuel: my life.


I don’t follow doctor’s orders: rest.

I burn with a fire

I can’t afford.

Glenis Redmond travels nationally and internationally reading and teaching poetry so much that she has earned the title, Road Warrior Poet. She has recently been awarded the highest award for the Arts in the state of South Carolina, The Elizabeth O’Neill Verner 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 2014-19, Glenis has served as the Mentor Poet for the National Student Poet's Program to prepare students to read at the Library of Congress, the Department of Education, and for First Lady Michelle Obama at The White House. The students now read at the Library of Congress. 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. Glenis is a Cave Canem Fellow, a North Carolina Literary Fellowship Recipient, and a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist. She also helped create the first Writer-in-Residence at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Flat Rock, North Carolina. 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 Instagram: glenismakingpoetryreign Facebook:

bottom of page