Exegesis on a Chicken Wing

by Quintin Collins

Pull apart the flesh
between drumette, wingette.
Rip and tear the meat

with your teeth and fingers,
cheeks greasy if you eat
chicken wings the right way.

From end to end,
a linear timeline
of fat, gristle, skin

as you stretch the wing
straight. The span
from the ax to the chicken’s neck

—we expect no blood
in the pan of wings from Sharks,
no reminder of sacrifice

as an exercise of hands.
Hunger is an exercise
of protest. We quell

commotion in our bellies
with mild sauce-doused wings.
With curved acrylics,

my aunt excavates
a vein in her teeth,
sucks her canines

to loosen the carnage.
I eat chicken wings
in my campus student center

to consume familiar bones
in public. Don’t you dare
leave all that meat

on that bone.
Suck the marrow,
gnaw the gristle

to pay respects
to those who pluck feathers,
cleave breasts from wings.

It’s Ramadan. At 3 a.m.,
my roommate fries wings
to satisfy daylong hunger.

We leave a bowl of bones.
Grab a fistful; it’s a register
of ancestors hunched,

elbows bent at 90 degrees,
fingers pincered
around a chicken wing.

Another bone clinks a plate.
I unhinge connective tissue.
Chicken bones scatter

in a Walmart parking lot,
on the sidewalk at Ashland and Clybourn.
In Boston Common,

another graveyard of hunger.
If I gather these remains,
I can chart a path home.

Quintin Collins (he/him) is a writer, editor, and assistant director of the Solstice Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program at Pine Manor College. His works have appeared or are forthcoming in Ghost City Review, Kissing Dynamite, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Homology Lit, Up the Staircase Quarterly, Anti-Heroin Chic, and elsewhere. He also received a Pushcart Prize nomination in 2019 and was a finalist for the 2020 Alice James Award. His first full-length collection of poems, The Dandelion Speaks of Survival, is forthcoming from Cherry Castle Publishing in 2021.