After the bombs have gone
By PAGES Matam

Watch PAGES perform his poem above.

After the bombs have gone
and the mothers have wailed
and the land has been returned

We remember love
the fission of a heart
like a large accelerator

We remember joy
laughter made of colliding particles
blooming in a withering field

We remember hope
once the size of a whisper
that grew into a song

The ones we sung over a fire
the hymns that glitter
in our blood as we take a lover’s hand
and dance until the moon is a jazzed spirit

We remember the purpose of an atom
is to become everything and nothing both at once.

An atom sp/its and the world ends
or begins. So many little worlds that grow up
knowing they always mattered

Universes without the chemistry of a bruise,
or hatred, or the disease of corporate greed
and the weeping of stars

I remember home in the village
ocean-stretched hands and salted tongues
who turned a dollar into a miracle
and made a pot of stew even for the ghosts

They too were nuclear physicists
unfolding big bangs from their pockets
too broke to think about the heat

But they knew blast as a first language because
no one came to save them from
their winter full of ash

I remember a future
where we are more than just weapons
or our hunger for war

We are the kiss long before the detonation
intertwined fingers in protest to any deadening cloud
we are the stone throwers and those who chose the sea

Spirits fueled by the reactor in their chest
pumping freedom and a kind god in their veins

I remember the hood, the projects, the deserts, the strip
the poisoned well, the borders, and the blood

How there were always bombs and shattered glass
the toxic waste of laws
and children without water

I remember the fallout
and generations radiating with sadness

I remember the rage
it was both mushroom cloud and fertile garden
where I learned to make sturdy vines of my hands
wrapped around the ones I love
with smiles like a warm meal

The ones who are undead and unwavering

I remember energy never really dies
it becomes memory and fruit
it becomes highways and tall trees
it becomes prayer and technology
it becomes medicine and starlight

It becomes a moment we remember
and a future worth living for.

Copyright © 2024, PAGES Matam. This work is made available under a Creative Commons license (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).

Artist Statement

Memory is a time traveling engine. It exists in every and any plane. Memory is both warning and teacher. It is sorrow and grief, as much as it is hope and possibility. I wanted to write about the memory, from the lens of the communities I come from whose voices are often not included in the conversation of far futures. To remember is to tap into the imagination, to protect and validate your own story, and to offer yourself a point of safe return in a world that may not have one. After the bombs have gone is an offering as much as it is a mantra. It is a ritual in celebration of ancestry, to acknowledge the pain and the iron of times that were before in order to better live for the liberated world we wish to create.

About PAGES Matam

PAGES Matam (they/he) is a genderqueer med-school dropout turned award-winning multi-hyphenate born and raised in Cameroon, Central Africa. A multi-lingual pleasure advocate and agent of imagination, they love battle horror anime and fried plantains as much as crafting poetry and high-concept dramas centering Queer Black liberation and their immigrant experience fueled by Toni Morrison’s words: “the function of freedom is to free someone else.” www.pagesmatam.com | twitter.com/@pagesofle

Experience More →