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Catherine Wald

Diagnosis

 

You are going

to die (some

time).

 

People with

your exact same

condition

have survived into

old age; others wilted

in infancy or were

cut down in the

prime of

youth.

 

Some

plunged

 

precipitously;

others faded with

unnerving          languor.

 

Your ailment isn’t exotic

or rare.

 

It’s not covered

by your insurance or

by your science, religion

or philosophy.

 

It’s just the sequelae

of your

messy

painful

limited

glorious

irreplaceable

time-

sensitive

 

mortal life.

 

 

My father ties his shoes

 

and the world stands still.

 

In this tiny al-

cove

patient

doctor

wife

daughter

feel the machinery of

bad news delivery

grind to a

halt.

 

He may be doomed

but he will not suffer

the verdict of a kangaroo

court with his socks

rolled down or

 

his shoes untied. No says the

set of his jaw as he cradles a

first ungainly sneaker.  No as

he fumbles to loosen its throat,

no as he manipulates tongue into

place, no, no, no as he relaces

his dignity, seals it with a

lop-

sided knot.

 

 

The cascading minutes

freeze in their tracks

as if

there’s all the

time in the world

to lavish on this

most mundane of

tasks

as if

the dark staircase

ahead is neither

steep nor

perilous.

 

 

Pick-Up Sticks

 

Each time you

--

delicately

--

ex-

cise      a

 

single

sharpened

stick

from

stack,

structure

rein-

vents itself

weight

(relentlessly)

shifts.

 

You can posit

balance,

fulcrum,

center

of

gravity

but still,

your next move

could

up-

end

the

universe.

 

 

Catherine Wald's chapbook, Distant, burned-out stars, was published in 2011 (Finishing Line Press); poems have appeared in American Journal of Nursing, Chronogram, Exit 13, Friends Journal, Westchester Review and on www.classicalpoets.org. She is author of The Resilient Writer: Tales of Rejection and Triumph from 23 Authors (Persea 2004) and articles in Journal of Creative Nonfiction, Poets & Writers and Writer’s Digest.