Chestina Craig

alternative universe where my Grandmother does not burn to death in Her kitchen cooking breakfast for a man


alternative universe where my Grandma

sleeps in for a change, wallows

in bed like the youth

She gave up.

She does not cook

my grandpa breakfast today,

does not wear a flammable coffin, instead

She stays alive in silk & smokes

my grandpas cigarettes on the porch & lets him

yell himself hoarse & blows smoke

into the kitchen that is not Her scorched body,

that is not the fire bridging a gap between food & disaster,

not the gas burner stretching its arms onto her skin

if death has ever been a warm embrace, it happens here

in the hospital burn unit

but no

today, my Grandmother calls my mom long distance,

& says “honey I’m so sorry”


She does not become salem catching up with my family,

keeps the heirloom of being a witch that refuses to swing.

if fire is a magical bounty hunter,

the women in my family are on the run

& in this world, my Grandma makes the marathon,

carry’s us safely across the finish line to water.


alternative universe where my Grandmother is alive.


She did not miss two graduations, the swim meets

where i come in second place & the car accident & the spot

in my spine that now crackles like a burn every time i bend,

we learn that we are poets together

my mom does not find Her

hidden notebooks this time.


& in this universe my Grandma is proud of me & my mom is proud of me

because she learns how to be

this time & this time,

my mother has a Mother who can hold her hand

through the cancer treatment, a sharp light

casting our faces less flattering

than a stove-top fire, a sacrifice,

even in this universe we are not safer.

we are still Women in every kind of lighting

still Witches on the flames

& the sickness on my mother’s skin

looks just like burn marks.


Chestina Craig lives in Long Beach, CA with her cat. Her work has been published by The Rising Phoenix Review, Button Poetry, and others. She has presented her work at The Presidents Commission on The Status of Women, The Young Women’s Empowerment Conference, & more. She has a degree in Marine Biology, and sometimes pets sharks and hangs out with octopuses. She hopes that one day she will only be required to wear gauzy clothing, study the ocean, and get paid to have too many feelings. Her chapbook, body of water, came out this fall with Sadie Girl Press.

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