I read somewhere that we’re made of stardust; that the far corners of the dead cosmos climb into our lungs when we breathe in for the first time, and nest inside our wire-frames every time after. Carbon, they call it. And our bones radiate the stuff long after our meat has grown stale and our blood has soured and our doleful eyes have retreated to the caverns of our empty cathedral halls. Those beacon-lit stars are like candle halos glowing in-memory of the carbon that has left us and the carbon that has yet to arrive. Anywhere you look in the night sky, there’s a star penning an obituary, but by the time it’s light has reached us, the messenger has died as well. We missed the funerals by millions of years. Didn’t even spend a breath on our condolences.
We’re carbon based, you and I. Like tire swings and chewed-up pencils and chicken bones at the bottom of grease-stained fast food bags. We’re just hexagons stacked up, tighter than LEGOs. Every breath, another building block of dead stars, and our towers stretch to the heavens until gravity calls our bones home for dinner. And when we fall, the carbon steals away into the mud because we borrowed it to begin with, from the dead stars and the cedars of Lebanon and the chicken bones at the bottom of grease-stained fast food bags.
They can count up the carbon, like glow bugs in a Mason jar and hairs on your head, and tell you how long you’ve been laying in the earth. Radio-carbon dating, they call it. The earth could tell you that too, but they never think to ask. And if you’ve laid there long enough, they steal you from the cracked dirt, stow you away in a museum and encase your bones in plaster, and when they put plaster copies of you out in glass display cases for other carbon-based lifeforms to point at, the carbon will still crawl from your bones to the dying light of its mothers. How many stars lay in hospice just waiting to forge their memoirs in nuclear calligraphy? The universe is Alexandria’s library, in that way, and we breathe in the dusty pages whenever we crack carbon spines.