Sitting quietly, doing nothing,
Spring comes, and the grass grows by itself.

— Zen poem from the Zenrin Kushu


I’m no Buddhist, but I know enough of lawns
to say the grass grows by itself even
when I’m not sitting quietly. Take now,
for example: I’m in a terrible mood, full
of so much desire and April cruelty
I could wash away the Four Noble Truths,
and, almost as I mow, the new growth
pushes against my chloroplasted shoes.
Even as a child visiting Virginia,
I gazed down picnic-perfect battlefields
and guessed that before the last cannonballs
burst and the last dying soldiers cried
their mothers’ names into the air, the grass
was already swarming back up the bloody hills,
as it now goes about its green business
with entrepreneurial zeal, cracking sidewalks
and disheveling my brick patio.
And when my daughter swings in our backyard,
crying, “Watch me, Daddy! Look how high!”
I look up from the mower as she launches
into the leafy arms of the trees, the whole
swing set heaving, then swoops back down again,
her bare feet riffling over the blades,
grass I scattered with my own two fists,
and I know — sitting, standing, quiet or not —
that as she grows there’s nothing I can do.