His Garden

     Eight pick-up loads of red mulch later
     he’s finally through, save for the crude cairn
of rocks he’s excavated at some cost to shovel head
     and his slightly more frangible own

     (tenderly shaded by a cowboy straw
     which he doffs, now and then,
to my smothered mirth—Missy, he drawls,
     come put your hands in dirt).

     It’s all hard work, stoop
     and heave through radiant dapples,
the poplar beside him casting its green sieve
     of shadows across his back

     and neck, not shade enough
     to keep his neckerchief dry
(fastened bandana-fashion in a noose)
     but, given the illusion

     of breeze that moving leaves
     creates, enough to make him
grateful. The landscape is beginning to resemble
      his intent:

     Bushido bonsai, unminiaturized.
     The six foot arms of juniper devise
a twisting, outflung, impenetrable maze, prickling
     around it crippled center—

     some car, we think, took the corner
     fast, came crashing into it—
which he extricates with a pruning saw till all
     the death-burnt limbs are gone.

     What’s left is less a Japanese
     retreat, though it is that too,
with its stone bench and pagoda lantern, than a pattern
     I perceive in all his work,

     wholeness lifted out of smash,
     past injury consigned to past.
And kindness which defines him most, and
     his not knowing this.