the newborn is wired
and tubed, her kidneys broken,
lungs broken, heart broken,

surrounded by the terrors of
telemetry sounds, e# beeps
of iv poles with empty bags,
dextrose infusions, catheters,
hisses of o2 (watch the eyes, rop
is no joke), masked nurses and
doctors prodding her sedated body,

and there is a chance – a good chance –
that this newborn will never hear the quiet
of her home at night, never taste the
bittersweet food spoonfed by
the tender hands of her mother, then
the gentle hands of her father (“you try, dear”),
never see the maternal lips that sang
the lullabies even before her face felt
the earthen air,
never feel the grubby fingers of her young brother
who, curious, pokes her tiny toes, scarcely believing
there could be such small things (“look at her toenails!”, her
brother gleefully shouts, before looking at his own)

but tonight, in the nicu, for just a moment
with her new parents at the side of her bed,
unable to feel the touch of their bare hands through
the glass separation between her and the universe outside,
(and, unable to process anyway, she’s snowed on sedatives)
there is a miracle minute where the neon lights are dimmed,
the e# beeps are silent, the room is quiet,
utterly quiet, and her parents, watching her chest rise and fall,
are at distance from her face that might be normal and usual
if they were at home with her asleep in her crib, her mom whispering
“isn’t she precious” and the dad nodding in affirmation,
unable to speak, and unwilling to break the silence,

and if you had taken away the glass dividers,
the tubes, the lines, the monitors,
the iv poles, catheters, the bags, the
“welcome to 9 east nicu” whiteboard,

you might have thought this was a peaceful family
at the start of their lifelong journey, maybe the day before
the grandparents would arrive to meet their new family member,
or maybe mom would take the newborn to her office to show
her colleagues who she hadn’t seen in several weeks,

rather than at the end (?) of a tumultuous, tearful,
torrential time in the nicu, mom recovering physically but
breaking emotionally, dad with a stern facade to hide his
terror, hanging onto every loose medical word, google search results
flooded with terms like “prematurity” and “renal agenesis”
and “rop” and “bronchopulmonary dysplasia” and other foreign syllables,

trying their best to make the most of their time together,
savoring every quiet moment like this one,
before the lights turn back on and the orchestra of the nicu
resumes its dissonant chatter once again.