In the NICU,
they try to reassure me
with stories of babies
born at 23 weeks
who have survived
just like you and I,
no mark of this struggle
of wires and buttons,
dials and digital heartbeats.
Born at 27 weeks, Arturo
is more fetus than baby.
I gasp the first time I see them,
my twins, Arturo and Sara.
In the violet light of the incubator,
I struggle to make out the color
of their hair or their eyes.
The only way I can tell them apart
is that Sara’s hat has a jaunty bow.
Try to remain positive, they say.
They let me change their diapers.
Arturo’s eyes slit slightly open,
flash of black, amphibious.
I give him the tip of my finger
and his hand curls around it,
like a kitten’s paw. He is intubated,
the tape covering his lower face
like a mask. His chest is covered
by sensors. Even the preemie diaper
reaches to his armpits.
All that I can see,
because they cannot cover it
in order to have a place from which
to draw blood, is his left foot,
a bulbous big toe standing straight
up in the air, just like mine.
Just like mine. This is my son.
Even when the crash cart comes in,
even when I can no longer tell
which doctor can save him,
I believe that things will turn around.
When the beep of his heartbeat
goes silent, I clutch my husband and
watch my son turn purple, beginning
with his toe. This is my son,
I say to myself, when I
can finally hold him, free
from tubes and tape. I think
of the multiverse theory,
wondering what version of me
can hold him alive and breathing.
what version of me
can take him home,
can watch him grow.
Sara’s hair is golden,
her eyes a streaming blue river.
She squeals with laughter
as my mother makes her
airplane sounds with her spoon.
I think of that version of me
where there are two toddlers,
skin so white you can see
their map of veins. I trace
Sara’s blue highways to her
big toe, bulbous, alert, ready
to spring into action.