Finlay’s Hours: ‘Attenborough’s Cameras (Interrupted)’

A chronological collection of writing during my son’s first fortnight of life, in Neonatal ICU.

(note: A lot of these poems were written right by Finlay’s bedside, and at times, they would be interrupted not by new thoughts, but by actual medical emergencies – by which I mean things of a medical nature that emerged. This is one such example)

Attenborough’s Cameras (interrupted)

He sleeps in a din. A cacophony of bleeps and
Jungular rhythms and audible sighs
That whisper and hiss. Each dip and each peak a
Wing flap that flutters to canopy skies.

Therein, he lies. Entangled in creepers,
Twisted in cables, anemones, vines
That trace around limbs, around hands, over feet and
Disguise all his features from flickering eyes.

Our eyes, that hover like Attenborough’s cameras,
Scanning the landscape. His body provides
Exploratory—

“Are you sure you’re ok to watch this?”
She asks. I’m standing apart, watching two hands become four as problems emerge and get solved. Mechanics, they operate with intensity, sometimes not gently, feeding tubes deep into his body. Withdrawing dip sticks from this miracle engine, bending, tuning and bending again tubes in various directions. Heart rate jumps, 200 plus. Oxygen falls, 90 below. I know what this means and brace myself to be asked to leave as the crash team arrives to intervene. Lunch breaks interrupted and parents gently ushered out of swinging double doors into echoing corridors. I’m still, watching. Numbers fall and rise in the wrong directions. Instructions arrive in haste, as well as speed, a few fumbles, further instruction, sail boat focus, race determination, everything for function towards destination. I’m far away, but I’ve stayed. I’m staying – I’ll surf the fluctuations and dip-climbing waves with my beat-slow heart and unwavering gaze. Then I am brave. Am I sure I’m ok? Impossible to say as split second decisions remain split seconds away.

And then – a blue-handed high five. I smile, bovine friendly and uncomprehending, eyes panning side to side. Another moment survived, like Attenborough’s cameras; in front, or behind, left, to right, on the wrong or right side.

-Unseen Flirtations

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