Two Poems by Bonnie Proudfoot

the question is still the wind
                    (after Ada Limón)

and will branches hold or limbs fall
where they will and will outer branches
swirl in circles, shake like a skirt,
and then how hard will each blast
blow across the highest part of
the atmosphere, twirling
the treetops, and how much the
highest branches sway, whether
more or fewer leaves can buffer,
whether thin or thicker trunks can
bear the strain, and will we hear
that terrible sound, like drumming
and hoofbeats and howls of
a wounded creature, or the sharp
gunshot cracking of a thick trunk
or trunks splitting, then toppling,
crushing brush, raw wood gaping
and maybe it all depends on
whether roots have found
their way deep enough into
the earth or maybe it’s a mystery
whether substrate below topsoil
is shallow or deep, the ground below
the ground clay or silt or sand
and the question is still the wind
how lately it seems to blow
stronger and last longer,
and should these trees that you love
really be so close to your house
but what is the other option,
a bare lawn, every yard a golf
course, ride around in your electric
scooter, only a canvas top for shade?



It was way worse for him than
it was for me, but pretty bad
either way. Pain is an idea
that I have to push out of my mind,
a force that has to be struggled with,
but I am used to compromising. He
flat out lost the battle. Shots in his
spine did not work, neither did pills,
he could barely sleep, barely sit,
barely walk. I never heard the word Lamin-
ectomy before. It is when a surgeon carves
tissue out of the spinal cord, to create
a wider space between backbone and nerve,
a slice so deep into the center of the spine
the cut looks like the aftermath of
a knife fight, like he’s the one who
tried to run away. He did not. I sat
in the waiting room of the hospital
watching a time-lapse video of a white-barked
tree as it changed from the green budding
of spring, to flowering, to fully flushed
and green-leaved, to foliage in bursts
of bronze and ruby, to swirly leaves
flying like birds off branches to
a leafless pale trunk. Five hours.
I wonder which stage he is in,
which stage I am in. A phone rings,
a nurse nods, and a surgeon’s voice
says things went well. No bending,
no lifting, no twisting, says
the discharge nurse. A week later,
we are home. His legs spasm,
they buckle under his
weight. He leans against
the bathroom sink. I clean this
soft flesh, careful to avoid staples,
I tape a bandage over the two lips
of the wound, hoping they will
clinch together.


Bonnie Proudfoot is the author of the poetry chapbook Household Gods, (2022, Sheila Na Gig), as well as a novel, Goshen Road, which was longlisted for the 2021 PEN Hemingway. She has received a Pushcart Nomination, and writes poems, fiction and essays, and has had work appear in anthologies as well as journals.