Patrick Lawler

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
	for finals?
	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.