Wise Poets – Emma Hine – Spell

Emma Hine

My mother calls to tell me a story.
She and my father were driving
on a mountain road, and all around,
the aspen trees were dying—
each one on the mountainside leafless,
clutching a sticky gold web in its branches
like it had caught a rotten cloud.
Where the road turned along a cliff
the guardrail was missing.
Far below, a red pickup truck
lay wedged between two rocks.
They got out their binoculars. The doors
were pinned shut. The paint was fresh.
It must, she says, have been two
hundred, three hundred feet down.
Phones didn’t work on the mountain.
They stood in the road for a moment
then got back in the car and drove away.
What else was there to do?
When they rounded the turns
they were careful. When they found
a gas station they told the cashier
what they’d seen. He laughed,
said the truck had crashed a year ago,
but was too far down the gorge
to pull back up. He’d been working
the night it happened. No headlights,
no motor, then suddenly, a woman
laced with scratches walked in from the road.
She’d climbed out the rear windshield
and scrambled downhill. Then
my father asked, What’s going on
with the aspens? So the cashier
told them about the webworms
and the trees. The aspens only look
dead, he said, because their branches
have been chewed clean. When the air
goes cold, the worms will drop
to the ground and cocoon there,
and in spring, moths will fly up
from the dirt. And this is the world
my parents are finally proud to give me,
here in a tale where everybody lives:
a red truck in flight over a mountain,
landing gently; moths about to open
like white flowers; empty-handed
trees about to fill again with leaves.