After Michael Rosen
These are the hands
that place all 1.4 kg of me
in the oxygenated incubator.
These are the first hands I know.
These are the hands which insert
a nasal tube and give me my first
meal at twenty-five minutes of age.
These are the nurses
of the Special Care Baby Unit.
They weave around the muddle
of wires and machine. Every hour
they measure arterial gasses
administer caffeine nitrate
potassium acid phosphates
and chemicals I can’t begin
to pronounce. They monitor
my jaundice my breath my heart
murmurs. They step out of the room
when the priest gives me the last rites.
I am so red the ward calls me the angry baby.
Every half-hour they write a new prescription
and send it down to the chemist.
Consider triple antibiotics.
This is the Ward Sister who pushes
the junior out of the way
when he knocks my lines out.
Every hour the nurses takes notes
folder larger than a Bible
watching me breath by tiny breath.
Day Four Day Seventeen Day Ninety-Two.
Every day at lunchtime and teatime
Dad telephoned will visit this p.m.
After a wall of numbers graphs
and tables they jot in the margin
Mum & Dad visited care done
and had a lovely cuddle with Karl.
These are the hands that wrap me
and my wires in three blankets
so my nineteen-year-old Mum can hold me.
Every evening every morning every hour
they change my nappy flush my lines
listen to my heart sounds. They keep track
of how often my heart slows.
Three bradycardias is a stable night.
They measure and soothe every inch of me.
When I am six-months old and leaving
they stand and smile in front of my Dad.
These are the nurses I can’t name.
O my nurses my knackered angels
the heart sounds you listened for
keep on beating
KARL KNIGHTS’ poetry and prose has appeared in The Guardian, Poetry London, The Dark Horse and elsewhere. He was a winner of the 2021 New Poets Prize. His debut pamphlet, Kin, is forthcoming from the Poetry Business in 2022