Hunger, Hanker

Maceo J. Whitaker

Soul-dark. Predawn moon. I step
onto the stoop to drag my sleepy
ass to fetch chai tea. My busted
shoe lands on a rotisserie chicken,

which sits on a Styrofoam tray
soaked in skin fat. Crunchy fry bits
line the chicken, a half-deboned bird,
meat ribbons dangling from its cage.

It sits neatly, as if placed by a waiter.
Who ate it? Who dined on this feast
where I drop my idle feet? A few
inches away lies a pizza box. As I

check it, I see it’s stuffed with paper
slips. Fortune cookie debris. A crew
rummaged through my dumpster.
Damn, I just ate a vast breakfast.

I’m full. The street’s empty as hell.
Every homeless spirit is Jesus to me, +
it’s not just the physical similitude.
They are God. They are church.

I praise the transience of antiquity.
Country Club Lou’s an apt fabulist.
Ten-speed Melissa pedals to infinity.
Wawa Willy never utters a word.

They’ve sparked infinite religions
that nest in rubble. When I was home-
less, I never lifted a lid for food.
I slept outside + plied a credit card.

I bummed money from college grads
who offered couches or carpets.
(At first.) Greasy mystic (“Ghosty”),
I appeared. I vanished. I slipped

into hotel lobbies to slap tap water
against my skin. Now, I pay rent.
Look at me, I cash portly checks.
Look at me up here, a bonecrusher.

Shame. I feel like a lord who deigns
to let the lowly nip at his toenails.
I unfold a fortune before I walk on—
God grant me a koan. I need numbers.

Before I unravel my fate, instant noise.
One cart, then another another another.
A-gluh gluh gluh gluh gluh gluh gluh.
They are collecting souls. I want one

to hatch from a sham mammal’s egg.
We must all sit + pray to each other.
I need to make sense of this moon.
I need to make sense of this chicken.

Maceo J. Whitaker lives in Beacon, NY. His poetry appears or is forthcoming in journals such as The Common, The Florida Review, Hotel Amerika, Natural Bridge, North American Review, The Pinch, Poetry, and Rattle.