Schneider [poem] by Diana Goetsch

A doctor tells you you have one month to live.
“What the hell is it?” you ask. “The heart?
The spleen?”
“I could stand here
and explain,” the doctor says, “but is that
how you want to spend your remaining time?”
“Good point,” you say.
“You might want
to put some things in order,” he says,
“get with family…”
“That’s definitely
not how I want to spend my time.”
“Fair enough,” he says. He looks
at his pager. “Excuse me,” he says,
stepping out, leaving you alone.

Out the window a small bird peers in,
the kind of bird that looks at you
by looking side to side. You think
of tornadoes, safe to watch
as long as the funnel is moving
right or left. Maybe that’s how you’ll
spend your month: become a storm
chaser. If God exists, you always thought
you’d find him inside a tornado, or beneath
a skirt. Maybe you’ll spend the month
chasing women. You should ask the doctor
if you’re contagious. He hasn’t come back—
could be he’s giving you time alone.
Maybe you should spend the month
in solitary retreat on some mountain.
In a movie you saw about this kind of thing,
a guy revisits his past loves, darting
all over the place, because movies
require action. The only action here
is your legs dangling from the exam table,
white paper crinkling. Here’s the doctor.

“Sorry Mr. Schneider, I was called
“I’m not Schneider.”
“You’re not?”
“Hmm.” He peers at you—
a little like that bird at the window,
only right at you. He takes off his glasses,
feels your neck, just under the jaw.
“Would you,” he says, “mind waiting
here another minute?”
“I don’t mind,”
you say, but when he walks out
so do you, in the other direction,
into the world of birds, tornadoes,
skirts, mountains, movies, love.


Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

Image by Manhattan Research

Diana Goetsch is the author of three full-length collections of poems—most recently Nameless Boy (Orchises Press, 2015)—and four prizewinning chapbooks. From 2015-16 she wrote “Life in Transition,” a weekly column appearing at The American Scholar online. She resides in New York City and can be found at