If I want them dead
I don’t mean the kind of dead
my momma will be

which I prepare to swear
is like, after standing
in a night so calm

it cuts the line of nights before
and after it in two
like Christ’s birth

is said to—a clear spring evening,
a field bristling
with crickets, long grass,

and lightning bugs—
handing such a night
to the world’s other hemisphere.

I suppose I don’t
wish death on them. I don’t wish them
on anyone

but themselves. One day
I’ll have to come to terms
for who and what it is

I mean by them
and risk having my mind changed
about them, as I have

risked being just as reductive as they
have become they
by being.

I expect that
on such a day when my momma is dead
I will want

to be able to stand
up beneath whatever sky
is left to me

and offer kindness
even to them and,
in unfolding both my hands

to offer this—
side-by-side as if to let fly
some fragile-winged thing—

experience my two hands
mended into a single tenderness,

and all the lightning bugs
continuing to be,

then not be, then be elsewhere
greenly in the black night.
I suppose yes

yes I’ll want to be this way.

Justin Phillip Reed