Before you study the map with x's and circles, the map that shows cities and airfields, ports and factories, but does not show faces, omits the stories told by the grandfather awaiting his grandson after school, the woman laboring in the hospital with clean white sheets but little else
Before you hear the choices that involve how many and how much and how wide and how long and how awful and you weigh the options coolly without sobbing or repenting or getting on your knees
Before you nod and say yes, before you approve the strikes that will destroy towns you have not visited, kill people you have not met, ruin homes with gardens, crush buildings with people, classrooms with students inside
Before before before
Take both your hands and lay them on a baby's head, close your eyes and listen deeply to the waves breaking on a distant shore, hear the noise of a busy marketplace, smell the freshness of the air when there is no fear.