My son was diagnosed with Idiopathic Bilateral Vocal Cord Paralysis (BVCP) three weeks after his birth. Idiopathic BVCP impacts 1 in a million children, the majority of whom will need trachs to breathe. He underwent three separate airway reconstruction surgeries before he was 4 and was finally successfully decannulated after the third surgery.
These poems are from the manuscript I wrote chronicling my family’s path through illness and trauma.
Poetry was my lifeline during these years. I wrote the poem “Blue Baby” the morning after my son had partially decannulated himself in the middle of the night and almost died, an event that will likely always haunt me. Today, my son is 7 years old. He talks non-stop and breathes without a trach. He is funny, intelligent and tenacious and is almost always smiling.
Envy the nurses who lord over him like suns,
lift wires from his body and prop them
inches off the skin with upturned diapers,
who lift him, a bundle of grapes, to change
the pillowcase he sleeps on from Mickey Mouse
Out to Play to robots,
who hand me the old one to take home and wash.
If I were the nurse
who slides the thermometer across his forehead,
places a rolled hospital blanket
between his blue knees, if it were me
scanning the serial code on the plastic anklet
he wears, the one that matches mine,
before giving the sedative or painkiller,
the paralytic or diuretic, if I poured
vial after vial of the breastmilk I pump
into the feeding bag— I would leave here at night.
I too would touch
with extreme lightness, as if parting
a giant’s hair.
Lips blue, face licorice blue,
my mouth, soft rectangular lateral
blue, him in his racecar pajamas blue,
blue about to burst, blue buried
in chalky glass. The night nurse says:
He’s turning blue as if to correct me.
We are in my apartment, a minuteor two
after the first cry woke, tolled three four
times in a row for me I sat on the toilet
until the last drop of urine fell— four five six
blue and his hands cool. Hours before,
he smiled through the bars of the crib,
bolstered by hands, a new trick blue. That baby,
this baby, air spliced in his throat blue, the blue
of lungs, crustacean blood, diluted Slurpee,
popsicle passed through the ice cream
truck window, lips dyed by a Tootsie-pop fucking
blue. His eyes roll back as his brain floods
with oxygen. I hold the emergency trach
in his neck, balloon to the nozzle of the tank
as it blooms with helium. His eyes give,
come back and take away—Capricorn moon
or strangulation blue. His cheek still cool,
where blue rested, blew away.
His trach safely above the bathwater,
the bubbles flattened, lukewarm, and he sings
wo wo wo ye bo, the skin sealing the space
around the tube as the PICU nurse told me it would
years earlier— He can swim, sing, anything—
and, in that moment, I didn’t believe her but,
lulled by the worn denim of her voice, her sitting
down to talk to me off the record— let myself relax how now,
knowing still the danger, I watch him pour water
from the helm of his plastic boat, and the words scratch
past his vocal cords which still don’t open,
the frozen pistol of a flower, all stalk, no bloom,
the iron lattice melody, his voice, a softer green
I’ve listened so long, I understand.
Lane Falcon’s poems have been published in American Poetry Journal, Rhino, Rust & Moth, Spoon River Poetry Review, and many others. Her manuscript “Deep, Blue Odds” was selected as a finalist for the Black Lawrence Press Hudson Prize and the Lightscatter Press Prize, and semi-finalist for the 2022 Tupelo Press Berkshire Prize and the Inaugural Laura Boss Narrative Poetry Prize. She lives in Alexandria, VA with her two children and dog.