one minute and seventeen seconds

By Flora Huang
Art by Peyton Chiang
Issue: Scintilla (Spring 2019)

if we were to condense the four point five four three billion years of earth’s history into twenty four hours, humans would only have one minute and seventeen seconds of existence.

two million years ago
you woke
and struggled against me

perhaps I should have been more lenient
but the unrelentless challenge of life had shaped you and
I watched you become the irrepressible scythe of the world

ten thousand years ago
you turned the sickle on me
and tore down my green hills for your fields of gold

maybe you were merely exploring
yet with each tilling
I wondered why your evolution cut deep into me

seven thousand years ago
you began mining and smelting
and carving away gouges of rock from me

it’s possible that you wanted some of my gifts yourself
and I suppose I have enough to share
although I suffer torment through each excavation

five thousand years ago
you rose, creating empires and
I watched you quarreling over my gifts

it may be that your bickerings were just those of a child
however, even when your arguments stained meadows red
I could not mediate your spats

two thousand years ago
you built a theater celebrating death
and cheered as people spilled their blood on my ground

for all I know, your pleasure stems from aggression
still, as the thousands rallied for brawls
I could not comprehend your brutality

one thousand years ago
you started clearing and cultivating
claiming my destruction was your progress

maybe you just needed more room
nevertheless, each forest you torched burned me and
I was powerless against you

five hundred years ago
you plagued unexplored lands
and chained innocents to lives of servitude

it’s possible that your pillaging was to build kingdoms
although your restlessness tread over the offerings
I once provided

two hundred years ago
you designed machines to take advantage of me
and stripped my forests for fuel

maybe this is the price of innovation
however, polluted rivers of waste run like the tears
I shed at my casual destruction

one hundred years ago
you murdered your brothers
and named it the cost of war

it may have been destructive
even so, you chose to enter another to destroy others as
I carried the toll of your feud

you will wake
and struggle against your life

perhaps I should be less forgiving, learning from the last minute and seventeen seconds
although I know that you will rise to the challenge and
I will pay the price

The time "1:17" is displayed as in a digital clock, the top slanting away from the reader. The numbers are backdropped by white and the sides with gray and black. Small humans stand at the base of the numbers.