Before / glenis redmond

Before words ever leapt from my mouth
Before I knew myself by name
Before nightmares of sleeping alone
Before the taunts of crybaby & pee in the bed
Before comb yo nappy head and lotion yo ashy knees
& wipe yo snotty nose
Before you blacker than midnight
you ain’t ugly but you ain’t pretty neither
Before the iron found skin and singed

Before the world took: a recorder
the 5th grade music teacher asked that I return
’cause I was just that bad
Before I understood the exchange of air
in a family full of singers and I just couldn’t blow

Before I knew my brain worked differently
Signs evident in unpracticed hands
attempting painful cursive scrawls
where d’s and b’s looked alike
Before the sum of numbers always equaled
up to zero in my life:
in my dad’s eyes

Before I knew what a crush was
Before Mikey who rode by the house
on his 10-speed bike declaring his love for me
and the Green Bay Packers
Before I knew I could run faster than any boy
Before I knew that was a deficit

Before ranking top percentile of the Presidential Fitness Club
Before Girl Scout Badges and Popularity
Before my 7th Grade Presidency
Before my 7th Grade impeachment

Before I knew death
was a ladder we’d all have to climb
Before I saw Mrs. Langley lying thin & beautiful on the couch
saying, I love you to a scruff muffin of a girl
Before I knew the word cancer
Before I learned the weight of loss is heavy
Before I ever noticed how the leaves fell slowly from autumn trees

Before I knew Ted Joan’s creed
You have nothing to fear from the poet
but The Truth
Before that truth found & shaped me
Before shame took hold
rooted & multiplied within me like kudzu


I knew something ……… a little something
but I knew I was born knowing it
a small green seed spreading
in the center of my bird-like chest
sprouted wings took me away
over my father’s sterile gaze
over can’t and never will
high into the silver-blue air
where no grade or slight could defy
where nobody could deny

I Could Dance

from the womb I exited in smooth conversation
with the world thunder-struck by its rhythmic engine
everywhere I walked music talked to me
and I talked back fluently in sign language
my hands gracing the air with the geography of prayer
My hips speaking a hypnotic tongue
Shekere Djembe Shekere Djembe Shekere Shekere
Each move a Hallelujah step to a Gospel Song,
My body bent in submission to I want to be Ready
& I am & I was born carving a groove
of my own accord becoming
what I always was


Glenis Redmond, a native of Greenville, South Carolina has lived in North Carolina amongst the Cherokee Mountains for the last 15 years. She graduated from Erskine College and completed an MFA in Poetry at Warren Wilson College.  She is a Cave Canem Fellow and an NC Literary Fellowship Recipient from the North Carolina Arts Council.  Her latest book of poetry is titled Under the Sun. 


  1. Glenis,
    I hope this poem spreads across the world in popularity like Kudzu and I am rushing out today to order your new book of poems.So proud of you and I often remember the life-changing experiences we had in Haiti together.

    To your journey,


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