I watch the rain outside the hospital
window. One more day they are intubated—
my babies like small birds, some say,
micro-preemies, the ones born under
three pounds, their skin almost translucent,
their faces wrinkled like they are starting
at the end of life and moving backward.

They say it isn't the weight of the rain
that keeps birds from flying in a storm. It's the air--
it lacks the oxygen density birds need to lift
and take wing. Water molecules take up
that space.

But birds can hunker down in a storm
and do all right. Their feathers are waterproof.
They secrete an oil that coats them
like Rain-X on a windshield, water repellant,
little bubbles pooling and cascading
in rivulets, disappearing, superheroes
with protective shells.

My babies are inside incubators,
NICU rooms, a neonatology wing, a hospital,
protected from the rain, getting oxygen streamed
into their lungs, waiting for storms and time
to pass. They are anything but birds,
but even their tiny bones and muscles curl
and crouch as if they have mastered
the art of the hunker.

Of course, I wonder if I did this to them.
I saved three infant woodpeckers
once. Put them in a shoebox and bottle-fed
them milk. Each day, I woke to a new dead bird.
Afterward, I dreamed of rain pooling in the drainage
ditch as I stood on my porch watching black crows
turn to paper in the sky.
When I reached for them, they fell—
sodden, limp,
melting into mushy pieces
I scraped off my hands.