Suppose A Doctor
Suppose a doctor came in the door
and said you have six months to live.
And then he said he was kidding,
but you knew he wasn't.
why is it always six months?
Why not two and a half months--
give or take a few hours?
Why couldn't it be 39 days?
Or why not: you'll be dead before the end
of the semester, so don't bother studying
I guess they don't want to get you thinking
too much about the iceflow of time.
Which reminds me:
I have this image of a fruit
that is growing its own mouth.
This doesn't really fit
but poems sometimes have to bear
the weight of irrelevanies
so they can take you somewhere
you've never been before.
I once knew a man who was given
six months to live and that was over
six years ago. Boy is he pissed.
I mean you pay good money.
You expect them to be right.
The longer he lives
the more pissed he gets.
He feels cheated
out of the jewel of his death.
Some people don't do it very well.
You give them six months and they panic.
They start tinkering with donor banks,
and transplants and DNA manipulations
and respirators and cart calls
until there is nothing of them left
but this terrible fear they can't erase.
Then there's cryonics--dormatories
filled with frozen bodies waiting
for resurrection. But I'm suspicious.
Suppose they wake you up
and say, "Just checking."
And you feel the first gush of something
deep inside you.
You feel your fingertips bursting.
You feel your mouth moving around the
frozen fish of your tongue.
You feel this firecracker go off
behind your eyes.
You see your breath like a cloud
wetting your lips,
And you know you're dying.
My father was given six months to live,
and he died on almost exactly the day the doctor said.
The family was sad, but at least
we felt we spent our money wisely.
I don't know if I could be a doctor,
but I know I'd tell everyone--
people with ulcers, people with coughs--
I'd tell everyone
they have six months to live--
just to get them thinking.
And I'd have this fruit in my hands--
this fruit that had been growing a month
since I first wrote about it in a poem.
I'd say, "Devour yourself.
Devour the juice of life."
Then I'd say, "Just kidding."
If I told you I had six months to live,
you wouldn't believe me.
I mean why would I waste my time saying it.
I'd be busy living or doing something like it.
I'd be busy growing mouths.