Spell for Undoing a Life Sentence

by Stevie Edwards

My mother is not sitting in a high school classroom
while another girl presents the week’s current events.

The current events are not a dead body. My uncle’s friend
doesn’t tell the gas station clerk to give him the money.

Nobody is threatening to shoot. It’s not a small town.
Nobody is on drugs. The cashier is not afraid.

Nobody has a gun. My uncle is not half a kite
on Mars rushing the red atmosphere,

half pumping gas into the getaway car. My uncle
did not buy the gun. Nobody is the shooter.

The cashier’s shirt is not red with blood.
The cashier is not a ruined planet.

My uncle’s planet is not siphoning into
a county cell. My mother is not listening

to a girl call her brother a monster. My mother
is not seeing her face locked away. My uncle does not

have her same nose, ears, eyes. My mother isn’t seeing
her monster. My uncle is not a runaway. Is never

afraid of his father’s bloody belt. Is never shaking
for a fix. My uncle’s fix isn’t shaped like

a dead boy. My mother doesn’t run
from the classroom. My uncle is not a room

she gropes about each day like she’s just woken
to find the furniture’s shifted without warning:

her screw-up brother not next to the pool at her father’s
house with the most evenly cut lawn in America,

not a whiff of pot smoke and God knows what else
is burning in the garage, not a monster wearing her face

chasing her around the house with a bread knife
anymore. Not a joker handing her a joint

laced with rat poison to show her his bad
skies and splendors. Nobody is relieved he’s gone.