The Zen Garden is Nice on the Weekends but the Door Will Lock Behind You 


Here we are all thinking and not thinking about being dead,

We fight the dogs from our shoelaces and from each other by holding their well-decorated vests,

This place is full of bitches though you can't say that, though you’re a person rightfully pissed off,

We don’t all want to be heroes,

We don’t all want to not die,

Except for this country, we don’t want to die for that,

Leaving curved impressions, germinal, with no expectation in return,

Leaving room to acknowledge capitalist patriarchy’s broad and coercive applications,

However meager or capacious the desire, our statistics are inevitably abused,

Asked again whether I’ve considered hurting myself or others ever or in the past two weeks, I make a joke about the future,

Whose companion story dreams itself in the obstacles budding across every new path to love,

It’s that no path to forgiveness would look like this,

I say I’m sorry, yes, I know this isn’t funny,

But is also a testimony to the enormous “thing” we do to the extent we are able,

Forgiveness from who, came a voice from across the room,

How long does it take, if nothing was cut or crushed,

But the day hangs from jangling hooks above your sorry yellowing head,

Three weeks into the prescription I woke thinking THIS . . . is what it feels like to be white,

No one disagreed,

It didn’t make any sense; anyway it didn’t last,

The official formulas for suffering are mostly subjective; I’ve accepted that I am one who will never suffer enough,

A position both intentionally obscuring and clear,

The United States was “conceived in slavery” and christened by genocide. These
early practices established high expectations of state aggression against enemies
of the national purpose—such as revolutionary slaves and indigenous peoples—
and served as the crucible for development of a military culture that valorized
armed men in uniform as the nation’s true sacrificial subjects.
—Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Abolition Geography,

None of the signs say thank you for your left arm, or hearing, or lymphatic health, or land,

I want to thank you for being alive,

And thank you, unfortunately, when it isn’t what you want to be,

Thanks down to the lines creasing your deeply infatuated head,

I wanted to volunteer for the Vets against War Crisis Hotline,

Then I didn’t write back, or attend any medical appointments that year,

I’m disappointed by the cadence of paltry confessions I make in order to keep living,

Later, in the rooms where we can speak, we want to know why do we feel so emotional.


“The Zen Garden is Nice on the Weekends but the Door Will Lock Behind You” is used by permission from Alt-Nature (Coffee House Press, 2023). Copyright © 2023 by Saretta Morgan.

Saretta Morgan’s work engages the affective afterlife of militarization, incarceration, and US Imperialism, particularly as they’re lived out through a Black queer femme body and attention to practices of land. She lives on Akimel O’odham lands in Phoenix, AZ.