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
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.