First Fried Chicken at the University of Michigan

By Christian Hooper

I tore through the Target, Hurricane Hooper hellbent
on proving that his skin was
crisp enough, that the revered golden country
Fried belonged to the Midwest Dynasty
my father is a scholar in, all through the Lawry’s
seasoning-salt-and-spices-phantoms in the empty cupboard,
because what’s the point of being armed
with an oil emboldened pan if I was going to half-ass it?

And when the storm died down, crowned
with this sun swallowing pit, her echoed words
slam into me like the incoming SUV—
You didn’t look hard enough— loose stream of
frigid water trickling down my back
knowing my mother is a magician. She will
conjure that chameleon package of paper towel
from the unnameable jaws of heaven, sink teeth into
that vanilla golden morsel. The sky unleashes its
glacial gray arrows upon me, renouncing my failure to
uphold my family’s legacy lying on that sleek, crimson throne

until I am drifting back into that Target,
no shutters shielding the chariot from the storm,
routine razors of bodies filing by… sputtering inner simmering
oil. But know that the sun never truly sets across
this breadbasket empire, that we will pass down
grandma’s skillets used to carefully conquer home-cooked-corn
beef-cabbage, et al. until we crumble into stardust. Know
that I fed flames to my newly own, shone
through disbelief that Tender tethered to my hungry palms,

except do you really think I’m talking about
fried chicken? I wonder everyday how you strung
up sentimentality like a bundle of Christmas lights
through smokestacks and plants when they
make me grab its still smooth wrist, crumple
times I breathed in sunsets and washed it down with
a cherry coke, sever its connection ‘til wrinkled and
I can’t call on you anymore. I’m trying not to let them
win mama, trying to finish what I started frying
My Way with the garlic and pepper sprinkled
with precision into this sea of reflecting
lights I never knew could glisten such settled amber.

Headshot of Christian Hooper

Christian Hooper is first and foremost a lover of storytelling who lives his life in search of the stories others hold. Currently studying at the University of Michigan, he is an editor for the Xylem magazine and a finalist for Philadelphia Stories’ National Prize in Poetry. When he isn’t too busy failing his French class, he loves watching sunsets in his spare time.

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