Catherine Wald

Diagnosis You are goingto die (sometime). People withyour exact sameconditionhave survived intoold age; others wiltedin infancy or werecut down in theprime ofyouth. Someplunged precipitously;others faded withunnerving languor. Your ailment isn’t exoticor rare. It’s not coveredby your insurance orby your science, religionor philosophy. It’s just the sequelaeof yourmessypainfullimitedgloriousirreplaceabletime-sensitive mortal life. My father ties his shoes and the world stands still. In this tiny al-covepatientdoctorwifedaughterfeel the machinery ofbad news deliverygrind to ahalt. He may be doomedbut he will not sufferthe verdict of a kangaroocourt with his socksrolled down or his shoes untied. No says theset of his jaw as he cradles afirst ungainly sneaker. No ashe fumbles to loosen its throat,no as he manipulates tongue intoplace, no, no, no as he relaceshis dignity, seals it with alop-sided knot. The cascading minutesfreeze in their tracksas ifthere’s all thetime in the worldto lavish on thismost mundane oftasksas ifthe dark staircaseahead is neithersteep norperilous. Pick-Up Sticks Each time you-- delicately-- ex-cise a singlesharpenedstick from stack,structurerein-vents itselfweight (relentlessly)shifts. You can posit balance, fulcrum, center of gravitybut still,your next movecouldup- endthe 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 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.