My daughter arrived the day after Valentine’s.
We lived the hospital for two days until the doctors said C-section.
They opened my wife up and shoved her guts aside.
A baby arm waved at them.
Because my daughter had punched her way out.
I tried to take videos of the baby still slick on the table.
My thumb kept sucking at it.
And then a lady is telling me my girl’s not breathing right.
She points to my baby’s chest.
And my baby is wheezing.
My baby is fighting and fighting.
The more I watched the more I knew she wouldn’t lose.
So I looked over at my wife.
Her intestines were glistening.
Not the right time to tell her we were off to the NICU.
Those first hours my daughter rested in the sealed isolette.
I stared at her a long time.
Said her name.
She opened her eyes.
I flew back against the wall.
When you wake someone up.
And they glare at you.
And they just punched out of a uterus.
You get a little scared.
I was still rattled the next night after they opened the isolette.
But I wasn’t going to stay scared of a baby.
So I put my head beside hers.
Close enough to feel the live current she housed.
I thought it would be peaceful.
But it was pretty weird.
Because something leapt out of my forehead.
And lighted in hers.
Whatever left me wasn’t sinister.
But maybe mischievous.
I stood surprised for a second.
Decided I didn’t feel much different.
The presence that left me had been light.
A tree isn’t aware of the squirrel until the squirrel leaves for another tree.
Branches stir for a minute.
Then the squirrel is simply in the tree it prefers.
That’s how it was.
I wondered what she had that I didn’t.
And then they told us it was time to take her home.
She’d ushered in the apocalypse within days.
Woe to those with child.
My wife worked at the dining room table.
Teaching with the gash our girl’s fist left in her core.
I reinvented my job on the couch and the counter.
Our three-year-old bit his lips until they bled.
Then summer came and put us in a yellow trance.
My girl’s hair started coming in blonde.
She got the blue eyes that skipped my wife and me.
Irises so light they turn the color of whatever she looks at.
The doctors had her in a harness for her wonky hip.
Foam and Velcro encased her.
Made it hard to change her.
Her six-month sentence in the thing took forever.
But she came out doing crazy feats.
Like sitting in the splits and dragging her big brother across the floor one-handed.
Effecting reckless head tosses to locomote her high chair toward the stairs.
We keep an eye on her at lunch.
It’s like having a new kitchen appliance.
An expiring shot clock that throws bananas.
Sometimes she tilts her head to her shoulder.
Pretends she doesn’t see me.
Like I’m not letting her staticky hair stick to my cheek.
Like I’m not making fart noises on her arm with my mouth.
She knows how to handle things.
How to tickle and eviscerate with the Aztec Irish weapon.
Singing stories about something that was yours once.
But now prefers her.Follow @jp_kelleher