We split logs heavy as torsos—
oak, pine, fatlighter. I lumped
over and deadlifted them
to the splitter. Gray metal of the machine
showed through the fractured red paint
like bones. He tugged the lever
and the blade gouged and guillotined the wood.
The wood popped and smacked
down the grain. Fire ants spurted out like blood
of slit veins. We hammer fisted
some and stomped others—little lit cigarettes.
No organs or begging, only dead ants.
We cleared the lives easily, comfortably.
We brushed the bodies away to expose
the others. Grubs grew like tumors in the belly-
pale oak, beetles bridged escapes
to my knuckles and palms. We had ruptured
a city. We had cracked through
rooms and halls and homes
because we needed the money.
Because we were told to.
We dropped the beetles to the dirt like coffins
and popped the blisterous grubs.
After the log split once, we would splice
it more until we deemed the pieces
the right size for burning.
We tarped our harvest
so it’d stay fresh, so it’d stay
safe. We’d only untarp our pile to
admire our work and talk about our sore backs.
To point at the logs that gave us
trouble, and smile. We took the lives
at will. Later, we will sit around
the fire warm as the piles of dead ants.
T.J. Morgan is a kayak tour guide on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. He graduated from Georgia Southern University, and he will pursue an MFA at NC State in the fall.