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Before You Were Alive

Before you were alive
Magnolias blossomed
Rain fell
And young men died in trenches
In cotton fields
And in Jallianwala Bagh
British soldiers opened fired on unarmed civilians
Killing at least 400

Before you were alive
Algae or cyanobacteria
Found their way into fungi
Created photosynthetic mycelia
And life as we know it followed after
At one point very recently

Before you were alive
Europeans killed all of the passenger pigeons
Made mountains of buffalo skulls
Starved the Nehiyaw
Fell in love
Tried to offer their children a better life than they had

Before you were alive
The place you now live was the floor of a sea
Was buried under miles of ice
Was a forest
Had drinkable water
Even badgers

Before you were alive
Other beings lived
And died
And your Hydrogen
Your Carbon
Your Oxygen, Calcium, and Phosphorus
Were a part of them
And after you die
Your Hydrogen
Your Carbon
Your Oxygen, Calcium, and Phosphorus
Will no longer be yours
They will be a part of someone else
A part of very many someones else

Before you were alive
An infant girl held her hands up to the rain for the first time
Said wow
And her mother was bayoneted by soldiers
As she marveled at the water that fell freely from the sky
And when the soldiers tossed her in the air she laughed
The way she laughed when her father tossed her
And caught her
Tossed her
And caught her
And she was still laughing
When she landed on the muzzle of a gun
And somewhere in Poland
A little boy and a little girl
The only survivors from a boxcar full of frozen corpses
Tripped and held hands as they fell face-down into the earth
Before a gate that declared: Arbeit macht frei
Where the dogs tore them to pieces
And the grass was just beginning to rise from the soil
And on the other side of the world
Three kids the same age
Set out from a residential school
In the heart of winter
Temperature: -42
One with no shoes
But all with enough courage and certainty
That they never wanted the priests to touch them again
That they almost covered all the miles home
Before freezing to death

Before you were alive
Dinosaurs walked the earth
And the comet that ended them
Was still millions of years in the future
But one hundred and eighty million years is a pretty good run
We’ve only been around for 2.5 million years
And look at everything we’ve done

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