First Picture of Baby RJ – C.J. Huntington

For Rosie, and Madalynne, and Ethan
(and Bo and Ruth)

Dear God,
it’s February.
And the light paints her pink,
[and I’m still a plagiarist,]
gawking into my cell phone on the side of 10th Street.

My brother and I got new tattoos and
I got a concussion fixing my engine and
She has my middle name,
my mother’s middle name,
the part of me that
doesn’t carry a lobotomy scar,
doesn’t carry the most meticulous headwound
the Fairfield police department had ever seen,
just the part that’ll help her
play her cards close to her chest, help her
guise her name as that of a man when she’s
applying to shitty retail and food service jobs.


Dear God,
Do I have to quit smoking?

[Well be cool]
[Let’s not get crazy]
But I’ve got to drive to Missouri.
I could make it in three days
maybe two—
5 to 80 to 35 to 70—
No, not like that.
I’ll save up for a plane ticket
or at the very least a couple of
highway motels.
I don’t want her to see me strung out,
don’t want to shake when I hold her,
have a single beer with her parents and a
single dip of snuff on the porch after she’s
gone to bed,
dispose of the spit off the property,
keep the bottle rank and empty in my cupholder.


Arbores me comedant—
that’s what the tattoo says.
She’s got her fist in her mouth like she’s thinking hard
Like she’s going to bite her nails one day
Like she’s going to have something important to say
and kind.
With the dogs watching over her
the way we used to keep them close at the river shore.
That river kills a few kids every year,
but it was never going to be us,
and so help me Peter and Mary and Jude and
every other dead Catholic
it’s never going to be her.


My roommate comes out and I show him.
He says she’s cute—
they’re not all cute, but that one is cute—
we discuss paying rent before it’s late and
ration out Juul pods
and then he leaves
and I go back to gawking.
I wonder if she’ll work safely
if she’ll care to see that her arms and fingers don’t get overused
if she’ll find a friend that will sit with her and
let her cry for hours when those watchful dogs
grow old and go wild.
I wonder if she’ll have the patience for
Faulkner and Goldman and I
wonder if she’ll write,
if that tiny pink hand will one day hold a
blue Bic ballpoint pen as she falls asleep,
because those are the ones that won’t stain her mother’s sheets.
I suspect she’ll have something more important to say than I do,
suspect her words will reach more than just the sky.


And me well—
shit, man, I’m not that complex.
I’ve only ever been proud of the things I could do with my hands
But now I’m leafing through these Word documents
Running my fingers along the art against our walls
Glancing out at my barely operational Honda over my balcony—
the kitchen with no dishes in the sink,
the coffeemaker and groceries I
bought with my own money,
the well-trained dog asleep on the couch—
and I keep turning back to the picture her mother sent me,
the one where all the blood is cleaned up,
where the light paints her pink,
and her hair is the color of a woman that I love,
her entire hand smaller than the finger of a
man that I would trust with my life,
and I know that I could never do that,
and I know that I’ll get to be a part of something
better than I could ever be.


So happy birthday Rosie Jo,
from your strange,
slightly haggard-looking
gay aunt.
I’ll save up for a better car,
to come meet you
something with storage
maybe a hatchback
maybe a Subaru.
I’ll make sure to
shower off the tobacco before I
hold you for the first time.
I’ll bring you books.

C.J. Huntington is a writer and bookseller. Her work has been featured in Deep Overstock and Pile Press. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.

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