“On the Way to Grandma’s Funeral” and
“What the Confederate Flag Means to Me,”
by Glenis Redmond

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.


From What My Hand Say (Press 53 2017), first published in Nazim Hikmet Poetry Chapbook and published here with the permission of Press 53. A review of What My Hand Say is in the North Carolina Literary Review, here.

You can listen to the poet reading her work here.



Glenis Redmond travels nationally and internationally reading and teaching poetry so much that she has earned the title “Road Warrior Poet.” She has held posts as the Poet-in-Residence at The Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville, South Carolina, and at the State Theatre in New Brunswick, New Jersey. During February 2016, at the request of the U.S. State Department Speakers Bureau, Redmond traveled to Muscat, Oman, to teach poetry workshops and perform for Black History Month. In 2014-16, she served as the Mentor Poet for the National Student Poets Program at the Library of Congress, the Department of Education, and the White House for First Lady Michelle Obama. Redmond is a Cave Canem Fellow, a North Carolina Literary Fellowship Recipient, and a Kennedy Center Teaching Artist who helped create the first Writer-in-Residence program at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in Flat Rock, North Carolina. Her essay “Poetry as a Mirror” was a Bechtel Prize runner-up and will be published in Teachers & Writers Magazine. Her latest book is What My Hand Say, published by Press 53 and available for order here. Redmond believes 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.


Poet’s Note

I wrote “On the Way to Grandma’s Funeral,” obviously, after my grandma’s death. I kept thinking that even on the day of her death, hate does not take a holiday. I have always puzzled over how my grandma survived the South, the rural South. In the poem, there is a moment when I turn my head away from the landscape littered with Confederate Flags and back to my family, and I am enlivened by their ability to laugh while grieving. This is how I/we buffer ourselves. Then I knew this is how my grandmother withstood the South. This, too, is how we survive.

Join the conversation

  • Jackie February 27, 2018 at 2:59 am

    I suspect your Grandma did not hate, regardless of the hate she undoubtedly encountered during her lifetime. And I suspect that helped contribute to her long life. I am sure she was full of wisdom and perspective that is a shame to have lost, especially for her family. But she lived a blessed, long life, with family who loved her and mourned her–which is much more than many have… You are blessed to have had her in your life.

  • Marian C. Dornell February 25, 2018 at 10:05 pm

    Thank you for sharing Ms. Redmond’s poems “On the Way to Grandma’s Funeral” and “What the Confederate Flag Means to Me” and for reminding us how poetry can simultaneously bring sobriety and joy while shedding light on the gravity and grace of the Black experience. I am a new and forever fan of Ms. Redmond and shall encourage my friends to purchase What My Hand Say. This is a perfect way to remind us that Black History is American History and should be celebrated every day.