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Emergency and Emergence

Week Three


A respiratory infection
draws the air from my baby’s chest.
He sucks at my milk
and I suck snot from his nose –
the viscous border
between our bodies
spat in a muslin cloth.

In the morning, he is hospitalised.

What are the pangs of a mother, when she hears
 the moanings of her infant that during the agony of
disease cannot express what it feels? In her idea
of what it suffers, she joins, its real helplessness,
her own consciousness of that helplessness, and
 her own terrors for the unknown consequences of
its disorder […] [1]

When the doctor inserts a cannula,
he asks me to leave the room,
scared by my distress. Later,
my baby cries and roots for nipples.
I move the feeding tube aside,
letting him latch on for sleep.
Then I pump and push to reach
four ounces

six ounces

eight ounces.


All night, we flicker
through the beeps
and the tubes
and the tears.

The infant, however, feels only the uneasiness of
the present instant, which can never be great. With
regard to the future, it is perfectly secure, and in it,
 thoughtlessness and want of foresight, possesses
 an antidote against fear and anxiety […].[2]


On the second day, the nurse catches me
latching him on. ‘It soothes him,’ I say.
‘He wasn’t soothed,’ she says.
‘Your nipples tire him out.’