Before my daughter’s lungs
found a consistent rhythm,
they were off beat. Coming in

on the one, one, three, two. Unsteady
and unsettled. Too fast, and not
finishing the notes. The nurses

are worried. Concerned
with her cadence. My mother was
once scared for mine because

she found Live Through This
on my nightstand. It was a threat.
A kind of music she didn’t

understand. A specialist comes
and gives us the notes my daughter
should be playing. He sounds like

sheet music of worry. I tell myself she
is already a fan of Ornette Coleman.
Or Autechre. Imagine that: A baby

who’ll skip lullabies for bebop and
experimental electronic music. Instead,
they hook her up like a drum machine,

wires everywhere. Measuring her
beats. One, one, three, two eventually becomes
one, two, three, four. I don’t remember

what it was like when my lungs
arrived under water, already expert
swimmers. More fish than flesh. I just

know what it feels like to be a new
parent. In and out of emotional control,
drowning in panic before everything

finds its steady pulse.

From The Birth of All Things (Free Verse Press, 2020) by Marcus Amaker. Copyright © 2020 by Marcus Amaker. Used with the permission of the author.