The key to a Japanese garden, I’m told,
is to start first with the bones.
Heavy boulders, buried like cresting ships,
languorously emerging from waves of earth and moss.

Next the gnarled trees, shaped and trained,
coaxed to bow and twist and point in harmonious convolutions.
And bushes, clipped to look like living rocks,
maybe a bamboo sozu to taunt the deer.

So here I am again,
ankle deep in mud
trying to pry impossible holes from the ground.
Damn these plants
for not fitting in this earth
each spade thrust into the soil
turns up a constellation of rocks and gravel.

As I gently place the grasses into makeshift graves
I have to tease out the strands
and hold them in my palm,
each one like grasping tresses of your hair grown cold.

My hands hurt, my back is bowed in a weary arch,
there are plenty of rocks still hidden in the soil
everywhere I didn’t dig.

But it’s there home, after all,
and I always knew this was going to be a rock garden.