for Vera and Milan

In places where there are fewer trees people refer to them as aspen and they are highly prized. Up here we call them popples, not highest quality for lumber or firewood, they grow everywhere. Wherever there’s an opening the popples move in, any abandoned clearing, any yard left unattended is soon overrun. The proletarian popple, growing, optimistic, got the kids all working, got lots of grandkids on the way. Popples are excitable, quivering all over at the first hint of a breeze, always full of talk, talk of going away and talk of putting down roots, but it’s best not to listen too closely to what trees have to say.

Popples are lovely in the fall when the leaves are yellow or green spotted with gold or flecked with red or in winter with a new moon caught in the bare branches. In spring rain intensifies the delicate gray-green skin and the black patches, twig sockets, loops and whirls, eyeholes and genitalia.

I wouldn’t mind having a view like this when I come to the bottom of the long slide into old age and senility: a grove of popples, carefully cropped and framed to exclude the junked Chevy pickup just to the right.