by Amy Lee Heinlen
The first hours of your life, I fail
to help you wash the yellow pigment
from your body.
At the hospital,
jaundice is common.
My dumb breasts sit and stare.
Some early morning nurse conjures
a red drop of blood dazzling as the ember
of the cigarette she must have just put out,
the smoke clinging to her tongue, her hair.
Prick your right heel, prick your left.
A curse that won’t take.
We can’t sleep or fall in love. We somehow
missed our invitation. Somehow
I am the good fairy turning bad.
Stepped-over mother of a golden baby.
In your first hours you learn to jerk away,
another eight and you give up crying. Good
little bug, I keep trying to flood you.
You work your mouth on the spigot.
A trickle. Some drips. A drop.
The third day, we are sent home
with a plastic sash of electric blue light,
a yellowing baby to wear it,
breasts that refuse to weep.
Yellow and blue make green
and you, little glow worm,
are an alien in our home.
Little lightning bug, we joke,
readjusting the blue-lighted band
around the middle of your magic body.
But how can you sleep when you’re
starving? When plastic is wrapped
around your skin? When blue light
shines through your eyelids?
The first night home and
I want to go back to before
I could tangle myself in long lengths
of love like bristled rope.
Between the two people you made
mommy and daddy, in our new family bed,
you cry all night. We take turns
rewrapping the eerie light
while your exotic body turns
to match the color of little men
singing morality tales in a chocolate factory.
It’s common, the doctor’s voice
dispels from the phone I blubber into,
slick with my snot, my tears.
My hopeful head cries desperate fluids
but my breasts refuse to enchant you.
We sob back to the hospital,
to its basement,
to the NICU.
Not to our ecstatic third floor room
with big windows, private bathroom,
large mechanical bed that held the three of us.
Captivating sapphire, displayed in the clear
warm box radiating blue waves.
Black sun goggles over your eyes absurd
but your golden sheen begins its fade to cream.
Finally, my blue fly-eyed fairy rests.
Ruled by clockwork, every four hours I nurse you.
Then I hand you back to a nurse who mixes your formula
while I hook my breasts up to a machine
that sucks the life right out of them.
Bottles it up. Spirits it to you,
rebounding baby in light, blue.