Playing It By Ear in the NICU

There is a trick

intensive care nurses use

because I think their training insists that they don’t get people any more down

than their situation is already making them—-

the nurses say things like,

‘let’s play it by ear’

(as if anything medical is improvised,

like the charts are ecstatic jazz jams we’re all scatting along to,

with the appropriate significant digits)

and things like

‘another day or two’

(which I have heard every day

for five days now)

and my favourite

‘that’s okay’

(which is a thinly veiled way that they indicate that they don’t want you to worry,

although you probably should)—-

I have heard it all

the same way I have heard the respiratory rate monitors alarm

and the ECG alarm

and the hissing of high-flow oxygen

and my baby girl cry

because things aren’t alright—-

the nurses know it but they won’t say it—-

it’s okay,

just another day or two,

let’s play it by ear.



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