To Atom By Athena Dixon

To Atom

This is the summer of our discontent.
a microscopic breaking down.
breaking up.
a microcosm.
a reminder of scrutiny,
a reminder of death.
that black lives don’t matter because they aren’t really lives at all.

Black lives are hashtags
and topics for debate on Fox News.

We are peaceful protests where violence is the invited guest
A welcoming mat for riot gear and respectability politics

We are respectable negroes and a line of roses down a Ferguson street.
Black lives are a graveyard of bodies without names.

Because no one knows the language of this pain.
It is fear of the unknown because the known is never really safe.

Home is never really safe and it certainly isn’t the home of the brave.

Bravery will get you shot.
And walking will get you shot
And cosplay will get you shot
And Wal-mart shopping will get you shot
And listening to music will get you shot
And car accidents will get you shot
And traffic violations will get you shot
And playing with toys will get you shot
And buying snacks will get you shot.
And it will always be your fault.

Because you are big for your age
Because you didn’t answer properly
Because you didn’t signal a lane change
Because you didn’t lie in the street bleeding until the ambulance came

Because you are
Because you were…
Because you are no more…

You are reduced to atom.
To nucleus
To matter
To black
To nothing
To dust

By Athena Dixon


Athena’s work has appeared in various publications both online and in print. She is a Pushcart Prize nominee (2016, 2017), a Best of the Net nominee (2017), a Callaloo fellow (Oxford 2017), and a V.O.N.A. fellow (2018). Athena is a member of the Moving Forewards Memoir Writers Collective. Additionally, she has presented at AWP (Boston 2013) and HippoCamp (2016, 2017, 2018).

She is the author of No God In This Room, a poetry chapbook , published by Argus House Press. Her work also appears in The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 2: Black Girl Magic (Haymarket Books).

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