“Sheltering in Place” © Bill Wolak


Waiting to Die of Known Causes is Harder Than You Think

I thought waiting was hard when my feet were on fire.
But this is worse. The silent shudder is the same, though

this time we know what plagues us or plans to, waiting
in the supermarket aisles, on every box of Cornflakes

attached to every metal thing we adore and didn’t know
we adored until we were told not to touch it. Our faces.

We are all Lady MacBeth now. What have we done?
What will we do? My father waited in the mountains

during the war. They knew nothing; daily the war stopped
for tea. They believed what they were told because it’s hard

to fear something you can’t see. If you see a black bear
in the woods try to appear bigger, but if it’s a grizzly lie

down, pretend you are already dead. Hopefully you are
wearing your glasses, hopefully you are good

at seeming dead. Just take the feeling that you have inside
and let it cover your body, a blanket of dread, it will slow

your breathing immediately. If you don’t already feel
like a downed tree has you pinned to the ground reducing

your lung capacity to one on a scale that measures breathing
and zero is dead, then imagine it. Soon you’ll know for sure

what it feels like. You should never climb a tree, no matter
what kind of bear you see, because bears are patient creatures

unlike humans. My father stepped gently over bodies in
Slavic fields because anything was better than waiting.


Crystal Karlberg is staying home and writing. She looks forward to getting back to being a librarian.

Bill Wolak has just published his eighteenth book of poetry entitled All the Wind’s Unfinished Kisses with Ekstasis Editions. His collages have appeared as cover art for such magazines as Phoebe, Harbinger Asylum, Baldhip Magazine, Barfly Poetry Magazine, Ragazine, Cardinal Sins, Pithead Chapel, The Wire’s Dream, Thirteen Ways Magazine, Phantom Kangaroo, Rathalla Review, Free Lit Magazine, Typehouse Magazine, and Flare Magazine.