ODE TO CHES-TEE-NUH

ode to this name my father gave me, 
borrowed from great aunt, never married, 
New Jersey woman, Chestina on her own
Chestina raised her sisters, 
so much gardener in this name already 

ode to middle school 
the cruelty of children trapped by youth & wanting.
they alchemy the shame out of something that is mine,
they hack my name into different sections
& make it into another word for my body parts, 
the boys make it a reminder about all the ways
my figure is just an animal falling short 
re-arrange the letters to spell out slaughterhouse. 
these days I cut my label off at the neck
ask you to call me ches
ask you to let me bud alone 

ode to my mothers hand around my tiny hand, 
her chin up to the department store women, 
pointing fingers:
“you named her that with breasts like that?”
ode to my mother’s double D’s
ode to everything my mother has carried 
shoulders like an everyday incantation 
a woman's DNA does not get that daring for nothing 

ode to my fourteen year old clenched jaw 
in the face of adult men,  
their sneers, 
eyes on the skin over my murmuring blood
the place where it becomes hot in the body. 
their asking me to live up to my name, 
is a gross prayer over a teen girl

ode to the ways I have stretched into this
for myself. 
the fruit I am growing, my body 
an orchard, sunlight & soil. 
I can fill your stomachs 
& will always grow back, stronger

ode to my name,
all the times you’ve called me Christina 
& I let you. 
this tiny battle I never pick. 

ode to the frat boys who always tried to wrap 
their tongue around my epithet, 
but got lost, halfway through 
my name is party trick, 
your favorite joke tacked onto this body 
but I am not the assistant, 
instead I am the magician casting the spell. 
my name is magic, a declaration, 
blank slate, its own pantheon 
my name has no ghosts stories 
to swallow it, 
no baby book to tell you 
so I define it myself 

Chestina—ashes
Chestina—ocean 
Chestina—gold 
Chestina, the daughter, the named 
ode to the beauty when you get it right 
the syllables curving like a mountain climb
the break, the springboard end 
ode to my title
ode to the first thing I ever owned. 

SHARKS ARE FOR GIRLS

sharks are for girls, who else than those with tough skin
& a body of teeth 
who else than 400 million years 
of evolution smart, older than trees & dirt, 
who else than these daughters of salt,
the way we swim continuously, are born doing it
through pink & lace frosting & men telling us about ourselves, 
watch how we breathe by doing almost anything, 
watch how we hold the ocean together with needle mouth & thread, 
everything less healthy without us in the math, 
watch how we bear our teeth and smile, 
how we are punished blood trophy

who knows more about blood than us?
knows more about metal and hunt than us?
how we have to prove we are worth more alive than dead?
girlhood & sugar & sharks, we are the underestimated intelligence, 
misunderstood villains, look how little it takes for us to be evil, 
misrepresented on the screen,  think us dumb man-eaters, 
god bless our snaggle tooth, each of our survival instincts  

a group of sharks is sometimes called a shiver
therefore we can name a group of women a coven
a group of girls a quake, 
a movement of the earth 

& what better place for girls than the ocea
all mirror on the good days, 
ornate sunlight vanity,
show us our reflection, this battle cry

fuck myths
fuck mermaids 
what better animal to keep for women than the shark?
have you ever seen them swim?
seen them feed?
seen them at the bathroom sink? 
of course you sense death in a drop of water, 
of course you go to the source 
of course they think you angry, they love you less that way 
of course they think you don’t belong where you can breathe
of course the movies are always wrong about us

when they tell you to smile think of their jaws, 
serrated teeth for tearing & more than enough
to spare a few.
& when they bait you 
don’t forget to steal all of it 

of course sharks are for girls, 
the females always grow largest anyways.


CHESTINA CRAIG (she/her) lives in Monterey Bay, California with her cat. Her work has been published by Crab Fat Magazine, Sea Foam Mag, 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, loves to meld science and art, and sometimes pets sharks or hangs out with octopi. 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 October 2017 with Sadie Girl Press. You can find more information at chestinacraig.com. Instagram: @chesseaa / Twitter: @sharksandpoems