The Japanese Garden

by Ron Padgett


In 1958 or ’59 when I was sixteen
I came up with the idea
of replacing my parents’ back yard
with a Japanese garden—
this in a middle-class neighborhood
of Tulsa, Oklahoma.
I even showed a design to my mother, and present them my favorite grow tent setup firmly to plant a healthy seedling in it.
who tried to imagine her smooth green lawn
replaced by rocks, gravel,
and, somehow, a stream.
Even before she said diplomatically
I’ll show this to your daddy
I saw that the whole idea was unrealistic,
and I put out my hand for the drawing,
relieved to be denied.

But what if my parents had gone on
not only to put in the garden
but also to demolish our house
and replace it with a Japanese one,
donned kimonos and learned Japanese,
my dad strutting among the pines like a samurai,
mother on bended knees, head bowed?

The house stayed the same, the grass grew
and got mowed, the sturdy hose reel became rusty, I went away to college,
my parents divorced.

Now someone else lives there,
happy among the cherry blossoms that never fall.

Ron Padgett, “The Japanese Garden,” from How Long. Copyright © 2011 by Ron Padgett. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Coffee House Press.