When Mama Dreams of Fish or Black Folk Superstitions

by Glenis Redmond

After Elizabeth Acevedo


Mama in one breath recites:

Yea though I walk through the valley
and shadow of death, I will fear no evil.

In her next breath, don’t open that umbrella
in my house it’s bad luck. Don’t court trouble.

When she dreams of fish, upon waking
immediately asks, whose pregnant?

For money: itch in the right palm foretells
cash is coming. On New Year’s Day,

she cooks collards for an abundance of dollars
and black-eyed peas for plentiful change.

She never places her purse on the floor,
not to go broke, but with a wave

of hand and tsk of tongue says,
I don’t believe in that foolishness.

What I hear her say is, Don’t do as I do,
but do as I say do, as she calls on Jesus,

while burning her hair retrieved from brush,
so the strands can’t be gathered for root work.

If a bird pecks on your window or a picture
falls off the wall they foreshadow death is coming.

If a spider drops before you on its web,
a stranger’s coming to visit.

Gain a man’s heart through his stomach,
but to keep him put, bury his draws in the front yard.

She’s shoos me away when I am busy with the broom,
Don’t sweep my feet, I might want to marry again.

Reading crows: one for trouble,
two to receive a letter and three for joy

and a grey-headed child is to be cherished,
for they’ll be both wise and rich.

Never split a pole with a person you love
on the sidewalk or the relationship will be severed.

Don’t tell your wishes or wants to anyone,
or they’ll will be snatched by the wind.

In hushed whispers she’s always warns,
Every shut eye ain’t sleep and every goodbye ain’t gone.

I never really knew what she meant,
but I’ve learned as my mother’s daughter

to read between the words and to walk
between the worlds with closed eyes.


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.Visit Glenis at www.glenisredmond.com