The National Poetry Review

Chrys Tobey

LETTER FOR MY NEWBORN NIECE

After you were born, I walked into the hospital room
with a big bag of Mexican takeout as your dad snored
and your mom looked stoned from drugs and
a catheter hung from her side, and then I saw
you: a six-pound version of my sister, but pudgy
cheeked and swollen eyed, and I held you, so afraid
I’d hurt your tiny neck, and whispered, We’ll eat
lots of ice cream together.
Whispered, When you’re
a teenager, we’ll travel.
Whispered, What will it feel
like when you first crawl on sand?
What I mean
to say is, for a couple months I bounced you to sleep,
read Where the Wild Things Are, laughed as your mom squirted
me with her milk. You’d stare at my face and I’d think,
I’m one of the first people you’ll know. What I’m really
trying to say is, it wasn’t always like this: People did not walk
six feet away from each other. We didn’t always look like doctors
or bank robbers. There were playgrounds and coffee shops.
We didn’t look so afraid. What I need to say is, one day I’ll tell
you about my bike rodeo trophy, my booger wall, how the person I almost
had a child with broke my heart so bad I was too afraid
to try again, how much I miss you. I’ll tell you about
how shy your mom was when we were young and the first time
she ordered for herself. I’ll never forget it: she wanted
a sundae with whipped cream, nuts, no marshmallow,
and peanut butter. I didn’t think she’d do it. She was shaking.
But then, when it was our turn, she stepped forward.


CHRYS TOBEY is a Portland, Oregon poet whose poems have been widely published in many literary journals, including the minnesota review, Rattle, New Ohio Review, Ploughshares,The Cincinnati Review, and featured on Verse Daily. Chrys’ first book of poetry, A Woman is a Woman is a Woman is a Woman, was published in 2017 from Steel Toe Books.

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