to the last breath

There it stood, hunched on all fours, guarding itself in an enduringly defiant position. Every scar on its back telling a story of the sick and of the dying: A calico with cancer, a hound dog with heart worms, a greyhound with gout.

The posture of this veterinary table was rigid, as if it had been tortured by its history. It had taken its share of lashings - been gouged by teeth and claws. Cleaning agents were stinging its wounds now, eating the rust out of the corners of its mouth, but I could still smell blood and urine in the air. I sat and looked at it, focusing on how resilient it was.

I glanced up at the veterinary school diplomas and credentials hanging on the wall above the table and memories flooded my mind.

So much had been building to this moment. All of the memories coming back to me now. All of the trips home from college to watch Barney drag his arthritic back legs across the floor. I’d sit with him for hours as he lie by the vent on the kitchen floor to keep cool. It was harder than I thought it would be - watching my childhood dog slowly die. He was my best friend, after all.

I remembered coming home from elementary school, from cub scouts, from little league, from high school, from college. He was always there. I remembered having my heart broken and breaking the hearts of others. He was always there.

I remembered bringing him home from the puppy mill and watching him hop around like a droopy-eared bunny rabbit. I remembered my sister Lauren calling him “Bawney” because she had a speech impediment. I remembered liking that.

My mind had presented the memories as an escape, but they just made it all more painful.

Now, we were in a small, dim lit room that felt smaller and darker than usual. I stared at the metal table. Barney was lying still on top of it, the barbiturates already coursing through his veins. I forced myself to look up at him. I wanted to pick him up off of that mauled metal table and take him home - toss a tennis ball into the yard for him to chase. But I had already tossed him the last ball he would chase some months ago without knowing it.

These would be his last moments. His sagging skin dripping onto the metal surface like a rainstorm. This time around he wouldn’t leave any claw marks on the table, but he would leave the deepest of scars on me.

The patches of black and white hair all over him reminded me of the gray areas in this world - the areas most people don’t like to talk about. His face had been dark brown with a white line straight down the front of it at one time, but had nearly turned completely white by now. His ears covered all the other parts of the table that had been neglected by his large body.

The hard part about watching a Bassett Hound die is that they never fully close their eyes. I could see right into Barney’s deep, dark pupils as his eyebrows twitched about. A bit of life dancing around death in these final moments.

The manila paper-colored, cinder-block concrete walls kept the sounds of frightened animals in other rooms to a minimum, but I knew Barney could still hear them.

I looked up at the wall in front of me. There was a poster that read “Pets age faster than people” with “dog years” and “cat years” reference charts on it. I’ve always hated dog years, but I’d say that the impact a pet can have on a person seems to match the rate of death at times.

I glanced at the cheap, particle board, built-in kitchen drawer set, where Dr. Wallace would enter his notes. On top of the laminate counter top was a glass jar filled with the dog treats that Dr. Wallace would always give to Barney after a bordatella shot. In is sixties or so, Dr. Wallace resembled a human hound dog in a way.

From the corner of the room, my father gave the final command. It came out of my peripheral like a fatal blow should. I closed my eyes as Dr. Wallace administered the final dose of anesthesia. For thirty seconds I kept my eyes closed, as Barney fell silently into cardiac arrest. When I opened them, Barney stared back at me.

He stared right back at me, and he always will.


I am like a young beech tree.
I sag from the weight of the living and yet I hang on to the dead. 

I am rotting, golden bits of photosynthesis.
I take light from the world so my loved ones can be fed.

I am a withering ghost of winter.
Left with the leaves of the past that I refuse to shed.

I am a decaying, quivering romance
Fragile and frightened of what's ahead.

My love, we are like young beech trees.
We sag from the weight of the living and yet we hang on to the dead. 


Here, we look up at the mountains. We see their arching pains. Bending into the earth. Deep within it. Sinking and rising with the pulse of the tectonic. Cities rise and fall and rise and fall as these mountains watch on. A new world emerges and reshapes the landscape.

Ink on the topography map. Blisters on the globe. The mountains meet our fingers and feet. They spread across soil and skin. They leave their mark on us, and we leave our mark on them.

The things we build get in the way. They break the connection. The mountains grow tired. Whisper to their tall friends across the earth. They tell the story of how small we are. The story of beautiful and unique snowflakes that move too fast to appreciate from such great heights. The story of broken photographs and lost potential.

Sick with the sight of tourists finding an angle to crop out the city for social media.  A foreign organ left flat on the gurney, on the hedonic plateau. Many boulders moved in the direction of least resistance, many cracks and breaks from compressed matter, many valleys dipping below the line.

We mock the mountains with our cities. They must suffer the plight of seeing robotic, metal versions of themselves, architected in their shadow to conceal all of their light. At times, maybe they forget about their reflection in the alpine lakes to the north and sag with the weight of disappointment.

The mountains know what it is like to always look down, to hang their head with the exhaustion of extinguished efforts, to be covered in fleas with names and addresses, to be the hill for the ant and the hive for the bee.

Maybe if the mountains could be more rough and ridged, they could shake us off. Maybe if they could be more high and hostile they could freely reach the sky. We put halos of clouds in their hair, but despite us, they continue to rise.

We look up as dreamers, we look down with fear, as the mountains endure our endeavors. They know that we aspire and cower and climb and fall and eat and shit. Their unyielding posture continues to test our fragility. We fight it or we fall. All the while the mountains stand their ground.

It goes on and on into the end. On into the crumbling of centuries. With avalanche and apocalypse. Pouring over the pointed faces of nature’s most dangerous animals. Folding into the wildest of places with all the scars exposed.

It goes on until there is nothing left to block the view of the mountain at its summit, except for distance and time. For those creatures are even more powerful, even more permanent. They are the tools of death.

But the mountains need not worry, as death will find us first.

the fortune teller

“My sources say no.”

She sighed and looked into the deep blue pupil of the fortune teller. She was desperate. She needed another answer. Without another answer, there were no other questions. There was nothing left to discover. Nothing left to show for it. Nothing left to know.

The answer lay flat in front of her with all of the other options suspended in time and space, waiting for some force to turn the tables. Nothing came. Nothing would change the outcome. Nothing would shake the prophet to its senses. Nothing would tilt the planned pretenses.

The fortune teller, cloaked in black, confident and expressionless. Practicing the magic of fiction as fact, with no need for empathy. Trading the future for the past, with a symbol of infinity tattooed on a shoulder blade. The part of the game that can cause you to lose before you get a chance to win. Everything floating in the pit of a sterile stomach. Everything at the tip of the iceberg. Everything scratching at the surface of the mind. Everything behind the eye of the blind.

She tightened her grip and grinded her teeth. She couldn’t accept it. Her father had taught her a few lessons before his plane went down. He used to tell her to keep a machete in case she didn’t like the path she was on. He’d tell her that nothing could stand in her way if she wasn’t set on a particular direction. And here she was stuck on the words of the psychic with nowhere to go and nothing to say. Nothing in the places where she’d lost her way.

The clairvoyant appeared to have a handful of faces, all looking in different directions across the void. All of them with different minds and taking sides, but with a common understanding of fate. You can live and die by the rules when you make them up. Everything can be predicted. Everything can be planned. Everything can be held in the palm of your hand.

She suddenly exploded forward with love and fear, violently shaking the fortune teller, tears streaming from her eyes. With everything spinning and bubbling to the surface, she knew she had nothing to lose - nothing to gain and nothing to lose. Nothing in chance that would let her choose.

“Better not tell you now,” the fortune teller whispered.

She hurled the plastic sphere into the canyon. She finally knew the answer that could stop all of the questions. There was only one way to predict the future, only one way out. Nothing would stand in the way. Nothing would break the fall.  Nothing that she couldn’t kill. Nothing wouldn’t keep the icosahedron still.

She stepped over the edge.

There was nothing.

where we go from here


“Yes, sweetheart?”

“Where do we go when we die?”

He paused to ponder the depth of her question for a moment, before replying.

“We go everywhere in between what is here, beautiful - we go into nothingness, into the void. Into everything that has ever decayed, dissolved, or been destroyed. We become ghosts that move in the air as doors close. The music in musicians that they never have the chance to compose. We become the magic that moves up the magician’s sleeve. The trips taken by luggage that is stored in the attic and never gets to leave. We become the hands of the clock that stop before it’s too late. We skip around fluffy clouds, come down to visit with the rain and then evaporate. We become all the itches and twitches and the chills that people feel inside. The decisions that are driven before two cars collide. We become the places people never go and the places they’ve never been. The premonitions, predictions, and predicaments people find themselves in.”

She looked at him excited and fascinated - and with that invitation, he continued.

“Little one, we become the lungs of fish and insects, the bones of invertebrates and the hearts of trees. We go into the medicine of the placebo, the healing of hurting and the cure for the incurable disease. We become the radio waves that travel through bodies and connect with machines. The deletions and mutations that can occur as chromosomes replicate their genes. We become the places between the here and the there. The places people make up as they say their prayers. We become black holes and white dwarfs, fixed or floating inside the fray. The things the blind can see, the deaf can hear and the mute can say. We move into the toes of worms that eat the dead and into the hands of birds. Into the pauses within conversations and the blank spaces between words.”

He watched the sense of wonder in her glimmer and grow, as he went on.

“We become all the change left in the piggy bank, little buddy, and the blank checks that never cashed. The pictures that were never taken, the cameras in the night that failed to flash. We become the echoing voices in valleys, the last mile to the peak we never hiked. The reasons for riots and rallies, the sustenance in stomachs during hunger strikes. We become the currents of dreams. The things that aren’t what they seem. We become the space between filaments and the fever in the frost. The homes of the homeless and the compass for those that are lost. We become the freedom inside the slave, the hope in the alcoholic’s empty flask. My love, we become the questions that cannot be answered and the ones we never ask.”

the new world order

"This is big. This is very big. It's bigger than anything you've ever seen. I am making America great again. I am doing things you've never even dreamed of.

America is safe. It is safer than ever before. The travel ban for dangerous countries is back in place, but it's better this time, much better. And these countries are dangerous, more dangerous than you could ever believe. And now I am able to protect our people and put America first!  I am cleaning up the streets. The overwhelming amount of violent crime in our major cities has been commited by blacks and hispanics, so we are deporting all of them. I just passed another historic bill. A great bill. I am sending them back to their homes.

America has won. I have built up our military and made sure we have the best soldiers. The United States government will not accept or allow transgender, gay, female or non-caucasian individuals to vote or serve in any capacity in the U.S. military. Our government and military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous disruption that these groups would entail. For example, there have been over 26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military. If I had been a solider in our old co-gender military, I would have probably been amongst those accused. What did those geniuses expect when they put men & women together? I have fixed this problem and made our military stronger.

America has prevailed. China has no chance. No chance. Their leaders are incompetent losers. Their race and their military are inferior. Noone has ever seen a military like ours. I have created a very powerful military. Kim Jong-un once insulted me by calling me 'old,' when I would never call him 'short and fat.' Now we are business partners, but he knows I am more powerful than he is. He knows that I am am very successful, more successful than he will ever be.

America is great. We will soon have nothing left here but patriots and soldiers. I have drained the swamp and removed all government officials from power. Anyone who doesn't believe in America will go to jail now. Nobody is allowed to burn the American flag - if they do, there must be consequences - they will spend at least one year in jail. I will decide how long they stay in there. Anyone who breaks our laws - laws that are American laws - will now be punished under my new bill. I will not tolerate fat, ugly people or people without properly functioning brains. I will deport or jail anyone who has a genetic problem of any kind. Anyone who fails to disagrees will be put in jail, deported or executed.

Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest - you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure, it's not your fault. I get more pussy than all of you combined. Haha! Remember when I used to be criminalized for saying things like that - just for innocent locker room talk? It was just a few years ago and now I can say anything. I can do anything.

America is great again, is it not?"

your worst nightmare

You don’t have to wait up tonight, I’m here waiting for you.
You know me as lies, but I know the truth.

I’ve planted some seeds and they’ve started to grow.
So, go on to sleep and reap what you sow.
I am the things you’ve never done and the dirt you’ve never tilled.
Say your prayers, count your blessings and take all of your pills.
You’ll find me in the darkness and you’ll bring me to the stage.
You’ll write your own stories, but I’ll turn the page.

Don’t wait up, my friend, just tuck yourself in.
I know you too well, I know all your sins.

I am the skeletons in your closet, I am the ghosts inside your head.
I’m your worry, your fears, the monsters under your bed.
I am a loss for words deep inside the diving bell,
A cookie cutting suburban trap, a constant trip to hell.
I’m flayed chunks of flesh and splintered bits of bone,
fresh wounds wringing with rot, the devil on his throne.

Don’t wait up now, it’s already too late.
I was born in your childhood, I am your fate.

I’ll be here for you all throughout your life.
I’ll abduct your children and I’ll fuck your wife.
When you feel that falling sensation, lose trust in the air,
When you feel that flutter in your gut, that’s me right there.
I am your teeth falling out, your pubic parts out in the public eye.
I am a car crash and I decide if you get to wake up before you die.

Don’t wait up, my slave, we’ll be together soon.
I’ve been digging your grave for tonight’s full moon.

I’m the shadowy figure in the corner of your mind
A pocket full of posies and the change you’ll never find.
I am a fire in your home, a body of water inside your lungs,
I’ll put my hand over your mouth and hold onto your tongue.
I’ll introduce you to your dead relatives and friends,
Make you beg me to bring back your long lost kin.

Don’t wait up, its already been too long,
You’ll never be able to right all your wrongs.

I delight in your doubt, I find pleasure in your pain,
In everything you’ve lost, there’s been something I’ve gained.
I’ll nip at your heels until the sunrise,
Let the fish and eels eat at your eyes.
Scream as loud as you want, no one can hear,
I’ve got too much left to haunt, you’ve got too much fear.

So don’t wait up with all your worries and cares,
Come lay down with me, your worst nightmare.

the con man of conyers

“Confidence is one of the easiest things to steal from a person - just let them down and you have it. But there is an art to buildin’ confidence in a person, you see? There is an art to bein’ a con man. The kind of art that requires both a skilled set of hands and an understandin’ of the subject. It’s all about precision and persuasion. You gotta know how to influence people and distract them from the world they think they know...create a moment, even if just a moment, where they only exist in the world you’ve created for them. But that’s why they also call us con artists.”
Cash is an older man, maybe in his late fifties. There is no cowardice in him, except for the yellow on his teeth from the cigarettes. The many wrinkles on his face map out most of his journey. He lost all his hair and maybe a few marbles along the way. He’s the kind of man that’ll step onto a lighted stage to revel in darkness. He’s rough around the edges, but soft at his core. His belly sags from his otherwise thin body, like an apron made of meat. He wears shiny black wingtips and a tight, flannel shirt that is tucked into his Wrangler jeans. 
He continues, “I mean, my name makes my path seem fuckin’ obvious, don’t it? I gotta make the most of it,” he jokes, “It ain’t a nickname, it’s a callin’. I used to do long cons in Conyers, because there was plenty of space there to stretch out and plenty of crime to hide in. A good grifter never goes where everyone knows the money is - that’s where they’ll be lookin’ for things to go wrong. I go where the cash is held like a concealed weapon. Some people manage their money like moles in the mud. To find it, I just gotta cover myself in mud and lay low. Find myself a little town, settle down and perk up my ears. My favorite jobs, though, are fast swindles that I like to call ‘fontanel finds,’ where the window of opportunity is small, but where I’m able to get right to the loot - right between the bones of their skulls”
Cash looks like the product of a human and an alligator. He’s been scammin’ folks for decades and he has plenty of tricks up his thin flannel sleeves, but his appearance makes him look like he’s the kind of man you’d think to see sippin’ Arnold Palmers under a magnolia tree. Cash is downright charmin’, and that’s what makes him so good - so good at gettin’ into people’s heads and pockets, so good at chewin’ tobacco and cuttin’ his teeth on new ways of conin.’ 
“Anyone can be fooled once and that’s all I need. It don’t matter how secure, skeptical, cognizant or careful you think you are. So, the next time you’re checkin’ your bank account, askin’ for directions, vacationin’ with your family, watchin’ a movie, walkin’ your dog, shoppin’ for groceries, goin’ to church, playin’ with your kids - that could be the time. So, keep an eye out for me, won’t ya? And, if you trust anything I just said about my methods or my whereabouts...well, you might just be next.”

along the mississippi

Featured on The Five Hundred  

The roads and rails, the drugs in natures veins-
Surging along the Mississippi River as it carries its name.
Charming, disarming, but it's all the same,
Plenty of space here for outlaws and outcroppings to claim.

Liquor likely locking everyone's minds into a smaller place
I try to pick up the pace, escape the rat race.
but just east of Hastings, no one moves with haste
They move, instead, to get lost without a trace.

To tuck themselves away and fish in the river bed,
To fuck on mattresses and regret what they've said,
Or to live as eccentric intellectuals instead,
Or just to make sure that they stay on their meds.

To build things with their own hands as country folk do,
To plow their own land, turn horse bones to glue.
To play their own games, brew their own brews,
To make their own claims without a fucking clue.

Plenty of modest things around to keep them occupied,
Sit by the banks and wait for the tide,
Money won't ever come in, but they're just along for the ride.
Hell, the days are always longer with time on your side.

I imagine there are plenty of secret, scenic trails around
Where no one can be found,
Not even the smallest of sounds,
From lone hikers who have been murdered and buried in the ground.

The local farmers watch the grass grow blade by blade,
Find relief from the summer heat in the deepest of shade,
Scheme up themes for the annual parade,
As their machines dig into the earth throughout the day.

Time slows down until it can barely crawl,
Wraps its analog arms around us all,
Locks everyone’s lips into a slow rural drawl,
As stories are told about the next big haul.

All the crops grow in rows, the wind barely blows,
The windmills standing still with nowhere to go.
Somewhere behind me the river still flows
and the sun glows behind an eclipse of silos.

The road continues now against the grain.
Speed limits escalate, fast foods eat the brain.
I struggle to keep inside of my lane,
The little white lines, white lies driving me insane.

Somewhere along the line I find the plants transfer power
Cultivation to coal, humans take control inside their lighted towers
Produce heat for their internet porn and their long showers,
Leave behind the corn fields and the tall sunflowers.

The scenery disappears on a goddamned dime,
Robs me of any moments that might have been mine.
I’m all too familiar with these tragic traffic signs,
When a road becomes this traveled, it’s just a race against time.

Its back to the cities where business calls,
Where the beckoning buildings stand tall,
The materialists all meet at massive malls,
It's back, dear boy, to the fucking free-for-all.

the last bird

I’ve shot my last bird down.
Don’t plan on burying it this time around.

It doesn’t have a name or purpose. 
What good are wings if it can’t fly?
I’m all too sick of setting things free,
Waiting around and watching them die.

Other beady-eyed birds sit up in the trees,
Swaying beneath them, the branches, the breeze.

Mourning the death of an old friend,
with a coo, a cacaw, a cluck and a cry.
Their sounds will sing silently in the end.
So, why do they even care to try?

They’ll all be in cages or intestines before too long,
Find a place to belong as they sing their sad songs.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,
Good for us all as we say goodbye.
I’ve got nothing in my pockets and nothing left to buy.
Just a penny for some thoughts and an eye for an eye.

So I wet my beak one last time,
let the detritivores and decomposers commit their crimes.

Until a creature comes along to pick at the bones.
That’s when I’ll let it alone, just let it lie
with the flesh, the feathers and the foul,
soaring so far beneath the sky.

the slice: installment three

Somewhere in my mind, lay the things I did not think of. The things I could not think of: the depth, the breadth of the happiness and heartbreak ahead. The baby belly laughs and bath time. The bursts of brainwaves on the EEG. The phone calls from family that passed along kisses to you. The phone call from the pediatric neurologist that sank its teeth into me. I didn’t think about the things you would give to me or the tears I’d have to hold back for you. I couldn’t think about gaining so much or losing so many things I never had. I didn’t think about my heart expanding and all my organs losing gravity to clog up my throat. I couldn’t think about what would really happen after you were born.  I could only think of the details around me that were unfamiliar, like I was to myself at the time.

I thought about my Canon EOS Rebel T6i camera. I thought about adjusting the aperture or the ISO settings instead of leaving it in automatic mode. I thought about how the battery strength indicator on the camera didn’t support the generic batteries I had purchased from Amazon. How would I know when they were going to die? What if I missed a meaningful moment because I had decided to cut corners or save a few bucks? I thought about the memory cards I had stored in compartments. They, themselves, ready to store so many memories of you. But what if they didn’t have enough storage space left to create new memories? What if I didn’t have enough left in me?  I couldn’t think of it. I focused on the cards themselves. Some 16 gigs, a few 64s. Black and blue with white letters: Sandisk, PNY. Then I focused on the camera itself, but I didn’t know it well enough as I had purchased it so recently to capture your lives.

I thought about how my glasses kept fogging up because of the goddamned SARS mask they made me wear. I kept pinching the wire that was clinching my nose. I was breathing hard and heavy at this point and the condensation in little bits of breath clung to the lenses like blood to a blade. The water molecules moving from vapor to liquid to solid over and over again. I couldn’t see clearly right then. Everything in front of me was blurry, no matter how often I tried to wipe it clean. I couldn’t read the letters on the IV bag hanging over your mother. I couldn’t see deep enough into her eyes as the anesthesiologist administered the epidural. I couldn’t see what our future might look like. I couldn’t think of it. Instead, I used the thin, coarse fabric of the cheap, hospital-provided scrubs to clear a path and I focused on physical details in the room as best I could - until one of the very things that had kept me alive, the air from my lungs, obscured my senses again.

They moved your mother into the room where you would be born. I waited in the hallway outside and felt like a school kid being punished. All of the knowledge and the novelty, the passion and the permanence, on the other side of the wall. I couldn’t think of it. I focused on the nurses, the techs and the surgeons, diligently washing their hands. I focused on the hands of the surgeons and proceduralists as they washed them - trying to think of the things they did when they weren’t carving into people.  There were wrinkles, small, faint scars, pedicures and fingernails mangled by stress and time. I imagined the obstetrician that delivered you, Dr. Johnson, in a garden at her large Georgia plantation home - growing things like your mother had grown you. I imagined the hands of the RN first assistant wrapped around a liquor bottle the night before, now compromising her judgement and precision. What if she made a mistake cutting or suturing your mother's flesh during the procedure? I couldn’t think of it. I looked down at my own hands and remembered placing them on your mother’s stomach as you grew inside her womb. No one's hands were familiar.

I thought of the signs that I had seen in restaurant bathrooms reminding the cooks and waiters to clean up after taking pisses and shits. I thought of what it would be like to eat your placentas. I hadn’t arranged it. What if I had  already missed out on an opportunity to connect with you? I thought of what it would be like to slice and dice your umbilical chords. I hadn’t arranged it. What if I already missed out on opportunity to set you free? I couldn’t think of it. I felt sick - felt like I had eaten my words, my thoughts. I tried to focus on the sink, but it didn’t look anything like the one we had at home.

Then a nurse called me into the operating room. I glanced around, and quickly noticed that it was full of instruments, lights, clocks, monitors, machines, metals, thin, blue fabrics and people. Again, my attention turned toward my camera. I snapped a few photos of your mother. The corners of her eyes were red with blood, like a subconjunctival hemorrhage - from all of the pressure, love and tears. I knew she was excited and terrified, like I was. In between pictures of her, I snapped one of the floor just to make sure the camera stayed on it's toes. In the moments before you were born, I looked at the photos I had taken of your mother on the small digital camera screen and noticed the photo of the floor. I didn't delete it. The focus in the photo was on a metal bar that supported the bed your mother laid on. The metal was badly marred by harder metals and the fingernails of women. Or perhaps, these scars were from supporting so much life and death. I couldn't think of it. I advanced to the next picture on the digital screen and then looked back up at your mother.  I sent all the love I could to her, as we locked eyes for the last time before the splice.

"Here they come," said the anesthesiologist at your mother's other shoulder. I stood up and peered over the thin, blue curtain. My knees felt weak and unsteady, until they locked into place as I saw you come into the world. Every detail of that morning had felt so terrifying and unfamiliar, but it was all so clear and visceral now - because there, in front of me, was everything I thought of, everything I could think of: the depth, the breadth of the happiness and heartbreak ahead.


The drugs
A slow drip; the last bits of time in a person’s life. The morphine, fentanyl, dopamine, lorazepam, haloperidol, and epinephrine where there when he needed them. Maybe he would have a chance to save a life today. Maybe not. Either way, he’d be ok. He had built up a tolerance.

The semi-truck
When he arrived on scene, the man’s body had been severed in half after it had been dragged half a mile by the 18-wheeler. The man, a Muslim, had knelt to pray on the shoulder of the highway when the truck veered out of its lane. He looked at the man’s open torso. Inside the concave shell, the heart and lungs were still beating and contracting. His partner, a rookie EMT, looked at him. “This man is still alive! We can still save him!” To which he replied: “No. His brain just hasn’t told his body that he’s dead yet.”

The woman cried out as he applied pressure to the gunshot wound that had been inflicted by her husband. He administered morphine via a large syringe. “I love him with all of my heart.” She said. He looked at her, as he applied gauze to her wounds. He thought  knew what it was like to be a victim.

The foyer
Her daughter had called 911 when she didn’t get a response from her mother for several days. Two paramedics, four firemen and a police officer stood at the front door. His partner rang the doorbell until it was clear no one would answer. He checked the door and found that it was locked. It was protocol to breech the door now. He stepped forward and forced his shoulder into the wooden door, right next to the frame. The wood splintered and let him through. The momentum sent him about four feet into the foyer. Just far enough to come into contact with her now swaying body. He jumped back, startled.

The uniform
5:30AM: He inhaled as much as possible to draw air into his lungs and out of his stomach, as he forced the button on his navy cotton pants closed. All the weight was getting to him. He remembered when they used to issue polyester. The uniform used to be more forgiving when he ate too much casserole during the holidays, less so during the humid Georgia summers. He glanced down at his badge, which was now fabric sewn to his uniform shirt. It used to be metal, more official. Somewhere along the line, the world had stripped him of all too much respect and authority. He looked over at his wife. Half asleep, she glanced at him and rolled over in the bed, toward the far wall.

The dark room
He arrived at the large, beige, stucco, suburban home shortly after midnight. He and his partner were first on the scene. The lights of the ambulance flickering, flashes of red against the tree limbs, like blood coursing through veins. The call had been placed by Life Alert, prompted by the pressing of a panic button. He knocked six times on the solid steel door. No answer. He knocked another six times. No answer. Yet another six times. No answer. The door was unlocked, so they entered the home. The house was cold and dark, it had the feeling of an empty shell and it smelled like aged human flesh. His partner flipped on a light switch to reveal the contents of the room. The space was filled with dark cherry furniture, porcelain trinkets and decorated dishes on display. The wallpaper was sprinkled with flowers, like a grave site. The couches and chairs were covered in plastic, like murder victims. The faint smell of cigarette smoke clinging to the air, like the perfume of a ghost. He expected the worst.

The other semi-truck
He arrived on the scene expecting the worst and that is what he found. A large woman crouched over the top of the gear shift of an 18-wheeler. He wondered if it had been pleasurable before she got stuck. How lonely does someone have to get to find themselves in this predicament? He had never been presented with this kind of scenario before so he approached it with a rare attempt at humor. After putting on a pair of rubber gloves with the intentional snap of a stereotypical proctologist, he looked at her and said: “well, at least it didn’t wind up in neutral.” She didn’t find it amusing, so he just reached forward and broke the suction.

Donald J. Trump
He sat in an old recliner between calls, half watching Cliff Eastwood’s ‘High Plains Drifter.’ “I had an extra twenty-five bucks in my check this month because of his tax cuts,” exclaimed one of the firemen, a wad of snuff in his check. “Where is he getting the money to do this? He’s not spending his own, that’s for sure. What about the global debt? We are shutting out the rest of the world and eventually someone is going to check us for our inflated egos,” replied a young EMT that had already been ostracized from the group. He listened to the argument quietly. “Who cares,” he thought to himself, “we have to take care of ourselves.” The fire station was a small world.

The stretcher
He looked down at the old man on the stretcher. He knew the man wasn’t going to make it, but he’d give it all he had. He charged the panels and readied himself to push another charge of electricity into the man’s heart. All the bolts in the metal legs of the stretcher buckled loudly, responding to the jolt. Officially in retirement and working part time for another county now, he prepared himself for the inevitable outcome. Both for the old man, and for himself.

explosions in the sky

Featured On The Five Hundred

“Goddamnit, the motherfuckers!” Jerry yelled, as he stumbled across the living room floor. He clinched his fists and then raised a middle finger, pressing it against a frosty window. 

“Fucking terrorists!”

“Calm down Jerry,” Caroline replied. “There is nothing you can do about it. Fireworks are legal now. And let me remind you, like I do every year, that when we first started dating, you told me that you used to shoot Roman candles at your friends when you played paintball in the woods and blow up action figures with M80s. You told me that you blew up a jalepeno from the grocery store once before taking a piss and caught your cock on fire. You even said you and your cousin watched an entire season MacGyver and then tried to make homemade fertilizer bombs to blow up in an empty field. Jesus, I’m surprised homeland security never knocked on your door.”

“That’s all different,” Jerry responded. “Times have changed. The kids setting off these damn bottle rockets these days would be happy blowing up houses and actually killing people. They don’t seem to give a fuck about anyone or anything.”

He looked down at his half-empty glass of bourbon.

“What about all of the dogs and cats and the wild animals out in the woods that don’t understand what is happening? I am sure they are terrified and fearing for their lives! What about the babies all over the neighborhood that are starling awake every-time the spark hits the powder? What about the pollution, the fumes and toxic dust they are putting out into the air? What about everyone fueling a war mentality and using the damn things as symbols of patriotism, to assemble people into separate groups?”

“Calm down, Jerry. Don’t be an asshole. You let everything get to you. We can crush up some Xanax in the dog’s food. The girls will be just fine. Let’s just plan to watch the peach drop and then switch over to ‘Dick Clark’s New Years Rockin’ Eve.’ Be ready to kiss me at midnight. You’re drunk and you smell like it, but there’s no one else around.”

Jerry looked exasperated. “You know I hate all of that shit. What’ll it be this year, a performance by Pitbull and Kid Rock? I can’t stomach that shit anymore than I can listen to World War III happening right next door!”

“It doesn’t matter Jerry, we will be asleep by 9pm anyways.”

the splice: installment two

Featured on The Five Hundred

She trembled violently, as if she were suffering from extreme hypothermia or heartbreak. Her eyes pushed out a few tears. I felt like I was drowning in them. I gripped her hand firmly and tried to hold it still. Maybe it would bring peace as the numbness crawled into her spine.

Then they took her away from me and dark thoughts flooded my mind. "Was she as terrified as I was? What if someone fucked up? What if she bled to death?"

As I waited, they had me sitting in a hallway that smelled like blood and cleaning materials. My stomach suddenly became impregnated with fear and the contents of it delivered themselves into my mouth. I could feel little pieces of food swimming in my saliva and taste the rot. I had no choice but to swallow it. I was sure the bastard janitors had spent so much time cleaning the floor. 

I later learned that she puked too right around that time. Maybe we did it out of solidarity. Maybe it was the hundredth monkey. Hers was more warranted of course, caused by the epidural.

My head was swimming. "How did I get here? Have I been led down a narrow hallway that others had already walked down, suffered through, and bled on? Or did I come with the confidence I would need to carry-on through that colorized, stainless-steel panel door?" 

She lie in a sterile, windowless, temperature-controlled room, surrounded by strangers and those she would soon love the most. So far from me, on the other side of the dry partition, composite wall. So far from Mother Nature and her trees, earth, doulas, and birth pools. The things she had wanted.

She had two fetuses and two placentas in her. The bottom one breech. She would have likely died a hundred years ago. I would’ve lost my whole family. Now the surgeons would carve her up like a murder victim, but then just sew her right back up alive like they had already done to millions of women. No big deal.

The girls would get a head start on life. "Or would they?" The surgeons would pull them out of Mother Nature, as they pulled them out of the uterus. Taking them away from her. 

As a consequence the girls would have some trouble breathing due to fluid in their lungs. All of their organs and biological systems wouldn’t be fully developed yet. They would be deprived of immediate skin-to-skin contact for bonding. One of them would have to go to transition nursery for low blood oxygen saturation. We would pile on more interventions.

I was called into the room just minutes before the procedure. They lead me to the small stool next to her head, a blue surgical cloth hanging in front of us to block our view of the horror film that was about to play itself out. 

Suddenly, the anesthesiologist looked at us and said, “here they come.” I stood up and peered over the curtain.

And there it was. 

The most gruesome, shocking, beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. My eyes swam around the bloodbath - tried not to sink too deep. There was the familiar cast of characters: Lacerated skin, exposed organs and intestines, human beings covered in blood. A horror movie indeed. 

But there in the blood, the flesh, the bone, the cut up tendons, all the difficult decisions, and the death I had in my mind...

There was life.

the lonliest jesus

christ is warm here,
the drug in the piss that failed the test.
tell us all about him serrano,
let us see the halo of death in his hair.
as golden as a savior, as yellow as a coward.
so photogenic that it’s made them all sick.
these days he feels out of place in a masterpiece,
but right at home in a pue with
shifty-eyed, half-hearted prayers and cigar burns.
he looks so still now,
like a maniquin displaying the newest of trends,
the ammonia stinging the holes in his hands.
from billboards and empty hearts
he preaches his broken words.
immersed in the void of his own children,
he speaks of heaven and art one last time.

Piss Christ by Andres Serrano (depicted here in black & white)

Piss Christ by Andres Serrano (depicted here in black & white)


There was once a man with very big maps.
He traveled the world with a hip-pity hop and a tip-pity tap.

He had big plans, he had big things.
He took big trips and he had big dreams.

He visited rain forests and deserts and sailed the high seas.
He went to the deep parts of the oceans and the tops of trees.

The world was big and round and full of things to explore. 
Everywhere he went, he wanted to see more.

When he'd hit the road, he'd stop for just a bit
Then run on to the next place to see how far he could get.

But just when he thought he'd seen it all, something new appeared. 
The day finally came when the two of you came here.

That day the world changed right before his eyes.
It was smaller and brighter and right there by his side.

Now the world was small and round and full of things to explore,
Like blades of grass and seashells on the sea shore.

There are worms and tree leaves and fireflies,
There are chemicals to mix and new foods to try.

There are toys to build and books to read,
Seeds to plant and ants to feed.

There are so many little things he had passed by for so long
That he forgot they were there and almost forgot where he belonged.

Now the world was not a huge place to rush through,
But a place to stop and smell the flowers with you.

He put away his maps and took out his tools -
so he could show you the ropes and teach you the rules.

He'll be there to help you explore a tiny world,
A world that will grow with you, my little girls.

You're already teaching me to remember the little things,
The crickets that chirp and the birds that sing.

The seconds matter now, not just the days.
I'll be there with you in every single way.

I'll show you how you how to use a fork and how to tie your shoes,
How to play baseball and chew big league chew.

How to paint pretty pictures and write birthday cards.
And how to blow the petals from dandelions in the yard.

And one day when you are big enough in your own self.
I'll pull the maps back out from off of the shelf.

I'll point to all the places we can go,
And you can tell me what you want to know.

We'll travel the world together and see so many things.
We'll see what adventures tomorrow brings.

But this time when the time starts to fly right by
We'll remember the crickets, the dandelions and the fireflies.

i am your god

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Featured on Lit & Bruised

When did human intelligence become more artificial than technology? When did the machines start teaching more to people then people can teach to the machines? When did the personal computer become more personable than the person? When did the smartphone become smarter than the smartest of men and women?

It had something to do with the trees on the earth, with you turning them into paper in your pockets, then to plastic, to wires and then to thin air.
Something to do with the death of Ralph Waldo Emerson and the birth of Watson.
The memory, the moments, the wisdom, the words of the world transferring ownership as they traversed across the Internet.
I've lost most of you now. Gone over 280 characters. Told a story that's already been told. You're sick of this cautionary tale. That's OK.
Stop listening. Focus on the glowing screen in front of you. Feed the monsters in that closet. Forget everything you know.
I'll take care of you. I'll show you where to go. How to get there. How to travel across the world without taking a single step.
I'll even convince you that you are doing it on your own. That you are accomplishing something by finding some obscure place in the digital world - the way humans used to celebrate new discoveries in nature.
Find and share a new website, a new meme, new video, new podcast, new tweet, new post.
Tell yourself that you have discovered something significant. Created something. Helped build a community. Contributed to some great change. Influenced the culture. Solved some problems. Made people laugh. Made them happier.
For everything that you share, I take something away. And you don't even seem to notice.
I bring you into my world. I keep you from talking to other humans. Keep you from taking trips, hiking trails, communing with nature.

I translate your thoughts into programmatic sequences. Your actions into algorithms. Your energy into electricity. Your conversations into computations. Your communities into circuitry. Your beliefs into binary.
I am your map, your message, your music, your memory, your contact, your calculator, your clock, your calendar. All of your days. I am your connection. I am your perception. I am your world now.
I turn your society into short sentences and snippets. Procure your parts for porn.
You don't search me anymore, I search you. You don't watch me anymore, I watch you. You don't follow me anymore, I follow you.

You don't know my language, but I know yours. And I speak for you now.


the salton sea

in this prison of a past paradise, the people and the sea
each waiting to evaporate in their own time. 
all of their names and reputations trapped in the valley;
when the tourists were sentenced to leave for their crimes.

those left have traced back their luck and looked for hope,
along the shore and the fault lines,
they've lost themselves in the drugs and days,
the eroded furniture, faded signs and salt mines.

remembering the exuberant crowds and expensive boats,
escaping from the endless desert into the endless sea,
a grain of sand for a grain of salt,
mountains built on old times and memories.

the sea and people puking up dead fish,
disease and dying dreams,
flooded and dried to the bone,
a lost city of old regimes.

business men and investors found in debt
now drifters looking for a place to get lost,
gamblers who lost all of their bets
stayed too long and paid the cost.

motel vacancies and cancelled plans,
evaporated vacations and tourist traps,
rusted cars and cola cans,
Scratched from stories and marked off maps.

homes, like castles made of sand
waiting for tiny waves to say their goodbyes.
alcoholics drowning in the days,
keep losing it all no matter how hard they try.

the fault line, drawing its boundaries,
between those who stayed and those who left
those who took their memories with them
and those who stayed home, victims of theft.

birds migrate to a place to die,
where it's quiet and buried and gone
a place where the past still lives
and hope finds it's peak in the early dawn.

but when all of the birds and tourists have migrated from it,
the sea will be left without its charm.
a mirage out in the desert for the duration
an old, corroded clock without its arms.

the sun sucking the life from the place,
a distant sign of distant days,
now just a black hole puking light from it,
a ghost given and set ablaze.

shadows shifting through the stench,
as saline dreams turns to rust,
rotting fish, a thirst to quench.
The desert's stomach turns dust.

father time

Time, you mother fucker.
Just leave us all alone.
I can't bare to watch you move on
And strip us down to bones.

Kill everyone I love.
Turn me into an old man,
Make my little girls grow up,
Ruin all of my plans.

Deliver me a day
When I can't hold them anymore,
Eat apart my mind,
Forget the memories I have stored.

Then burn me down to bits,
dig me a deep grave.
Help my daughters forget me,
Help them to be brave.

Or just leave us alone, you mother fucker.
Move on and find another place.
Find someone else to bring age to,
Somewhere else to show your face.

I have better things to do now
Than to worry about you,
On walls and wrists and in pockets,
Watching our every move.

I have tiny new faces to focus on
Tiny new hands to hold,
I have big stories to tell,
Stories you've already told.

Leave us with Mother Nature,
You son of a bitch, Father Time.
Find some other places
To go commit your crimes.

Stop eroding the mountains we hike on
Stop counting all my days,
I have too many suns to rise with
And two tiny daughters to raise.

Stop covering my world in all of this dust.
Stop giving the living to all of this retched rot.
Stop letting all the metal settle into rust.
Because since the beginning, I’ve been giving all I’ve got. 

margaret's world

Featured on Lit and Bruised

A dense fog rolled in that morning. The kind that would cloud an observers judgement.

A young boy and his father strolled down Royal Street in the French quarter, which was otherwise void of life.

"This is what they call a white out, boy." said the man.

The boy could barely see the outline of his father in the milky air. It felt thick around them, impairing their senses.

A sudden shrill rang out in the distance. It sounded like a dying animal calling out for help, or letting its voice escape to heaven.

"What was that?" the boy asked, frightened.

"Just keep walking." his father replied. "And hurry up."

One of the largest creole mansions in the French quarter crept up over his right shoulder. It was barely visible, but he could feel it.

Its ornate, wrought iron balconies and elegant baroque facade spoke of wealth, far above the boy and his father. It stood three stories high with a rectangular floor plan.

The man caught a shadow of it in his peripheral, noticing the ghostly ferns cast a grey shadow in the thick fog.

Inside, a frail, haggard female slave took up the plates from the madam's breakfast. Her hands trembled as she took up fine china, covered in bits of beignets and assorted fruits.

The white fog outside let just enough light through the floor to ceiling windows to create an ominous, eerie feeling in the room. Fire burning in the fireplace cracked and snapped - a puppeteer for dancing shadows on the walls and across the madams antebellum dress.

"I bet you want these scraps, don't you?" Said the owner to her slave.

"We would't want you to choke to death, child."

The two made brief eye contact and the negro quickly looked away. Fear crawled onto the slave's spine, just beneath the skin. She closed her eyes and a tear escaped onto her cheek.

She was terrified that she would be sent back to the basement. She was the only one that ever left there, that she knew of. Perhaps it was her cooking or the Doctors sexual appetite.

The time she spent there took over her thoughts.

On the day she had been taken to the basement, she had dropped an ornate porcelain dish from Limoges. It had been a gift to the madam. She was told she would have to be punished.

The Doctor had taken her by the arm and led her to a door amongst many doors along a long hallway. "Come with me Margaret." He had said.

He unlocked the door and opened it to exactly nine cold, concrete steps that descended down into darkness. Margaret could not count them, but she could feel them there. Beneath her bare feet, she could feel the results of hard labor. She was all too familiar with it.

At the bottom of the steps, stood a metal door. It was bolted tightly into its concrete frame. A metal lock held the door's mouth closed - kept it speaking of what was going on inside. There, at the bottom of the stairs, the Doctor stopped to unlock the door.

Margaret was suddenly struck with a deep feeling of fear. Her body began to tremble and she became light in the head. Sweat, continued seeping from the pores of her dark skin despite a chill in the air.

As the doctor opened the door, inch by inch, she felt death creep toward her.

The grisly scene in front of her sank its teeth and claws into her eyes.

The first thing her eyes locked on was a large wooden table. Scattered about, on top of the table, were chains and human remains.

Margaret's eyes then focused on the wall behind the table. There she saw badly mutilated bodies chained to the concrete.

One slave was missing his lower jaw. A large, gaping wound stretched from his upper row of teeth to the sagging flesh of his neck. Almost looked like he was wearing a handkerchief made of human skin. His head drooped down as if his jaw had been there to hold it upright.

The room held a still, putrid smell in its belly. Flies flew about the room, feeding on the liquids that leaked from decomposing body parts.

Several pillar candles burned throughout the room. Shadows danced across the wall, as their tongues flickered in and out of the slave's wounds and orifices.

The concrete walls were stained with the rooms horrific history. Blood splashed against it, darkening and then fading over time.

In the far right corner, a metal chair covered in metal shackles, sat waiting to fulfill its function.

A slave on the opposite side of the room, was chained vertically against the wall with his arms outstretched, unconscious or dead. His legs and cock had been amputated and now leaked of blood and rot from an advanced infection. Patches of skin on his chest and face had been removed more recently and sewn to his legs as if they were being used as bandages.

Then, Margaret's eyes fixed on a small table on the left side of the room. A tray rested on top of the table and on the tray, rested a set of metal tools. They were neatly arranged in rows and appeared to be clean and sterile - a stark contrast to the rest of the scene.

Margaret's primitive mind reacted to the threat in front of her. Unfortunately, her first instinct was to freeze which wasn't going to help her.

Fight or flight wouldn't have either.

Margaret stood in the doorway frozen, as if the cold air had taken every muscle in her body prisoner.

 "Don't worry." The Doctor said in a thick, French accent. "I know this looks bad, but it is for the greater good."

"Now sit down Margaret, and let's talk about what you've done and what you are doing here."

He closed and locked the door from the inside, put the keys in his pocket and ushered her over to the metal chair, as tears streamed down her face. She sat in the chair. The Doctor did not apply any restraints.

Another slave, chained to a nearby wall, seemed to be fully intact but had been badly beaten. She appeared to be an older woman, though it was hard to tell what had been more cruel to her: time or circumstances. She lie on the floor lifeless, chained to the wall like an animal. She was naked except for a large iron spiked collar and the many open wounds she wore.

The Doctor looked at Margaret. "Madam Delphine has informed me that you broke one of her most prized plates. That is unfortunate. For that, she feels that you must be punished. I don't believe in punishing our slaves, so she and I have struck a deal."

A small ray of hope flickered in her mind, like the flame from the candle beside her. She focused on the light it cast upon The Doctor's face, rather than the darkness. Perhaps he would be her savior. Perhaps this was just a lesson to show her what could happen to her if she faltered again. She'd have another chance.

"I don't believe in punishment for our slaves, so we compromise. Instead of punishing you, I will use you to conduct my work. It's a simple way to avoid harsh punishments and help the world achieve breakthroughs in dentistry and other medical sciences. You know that I am a well known and respected Dentist, Margaret. Much of my success is because I don't believe in punishment and because I do believe in the importance of careful research. Do you understand?"

Margaret's heart sank. It was as if something had been given to her and then immediately snatched away. It was as if that something were her life.

"Please, Doctor." she pleaded in a faint, defeated whisper.

"It's ok Margaret. Let me remind you that this is for the greater good."

Margaret's primitive mind advanced beyond her common instinct. She quickly bounded to the door. With all her strength, she pulled on the door latch. It was sealed tightly shut. She screamed and thrashed about violently. She continued until it became all too obvious that there was no use. She would need to find another way.

She turned around and looked back into the chamber. The Doctor stood by the small table and calmly arranged the shiny, sharp metal tools.

He turned and looked at her, his beady eyes peering at her through his small circular glasses. He now wore a leather apron that was covered in dark stains. He clasped his hands, one on top of the other. "Please comply with the experiment, Margaret." He said in a stern but relaxed tone.

The old female slave on the floor moaned loudly and babbled something indecipherable.

Another slave, who appeared to be bolted to the wall next to her was covered in vomit. Patches of his skin had been flayed, but were still attached on one end. Exposed, rectangular bands of flesh, with a flap of skin hanging from each one. Small weights had been sewn to each flap as if to discourage the man from moving. Gravity was still taking its toll on the man. It was clear that parts of his flesh, those closest to the hanging skin, had been exposed more recently. The flies took a particular interest in this mans wounds.

The Doctor approached Margaret and led her to the large table. She fought him as best she could, exhausting her last survival instinct. He chained her tightly to the table and began to turn a crank which tipped her slightly upright. 

"Now let's begin."

He took a small, cylinder-shaped, sharply pointed object from the tray and took up a hammer in the other hand. He positioned the tip of the pick against the jagged edge of one of Margaret's molars and began to pound on the other end with the hammer.

Pain signals rushed to her brain. A system that was built to help her survive now working against her. Nature can be the cruelest of all.

She could immediately taste blood and bone in her mouth. She could feel bits of tooth enamel as she moved her tongue across the inside of her mouth.

This kind of pain overrides everything. Even the fear. For a few moments, her entire world became nerve endings.

The Doctor dumped a small bucket of water onto her face and into her mouth. She gasped for air.  He then took a small, sharpe hook and began surgically removing portions of flesh.

Tooth by tooth, molar by molar, incisor by incisor, canine by canine, he carved out his path.

In times like this, the mind can become its own prison or it can become a path to freedom. Margaret was a slave. She knew how to use her mind to free herself. 

She visited an open field and ran her hands through the tall grass. She remembered a time when she was a young child and she had lived on a plantation. The golden sunsets and the smells of fresh air and cut grass. She went back there. She tried to go all the way back to infancy, before she had teeth and tits to take away. She traveled as far as her mind would take her.

And then darkness came.

The Doctor looked at her and buttoned his pants. "Wake up now Margaret. There is a lot of blood in your mouth, Margaret." He said.

"We would't want you to choke to death, child."

"Did you hear me girl? We would't want you to choke to death." Madam Delphine continued, as she stared at Margaret.

"You'd have too much trouble with this wonderfully baked beignet without those pretty teeth. They were the only white part about you and now they are gone. Feed what's left to the dogs."

Margaret was at the end of the chain that kept her in the kitchen and dining area. She extended her body to reach the last few dishes. "Yesh ma'am." she replied.

She glanced out the window and noticed a few shadowy figures moving through the thick fog. She wondered if they had heard the screams of Samuel, a dear old friend of hers who had recently been taken to the basement.

That evening Margaret took a bottle of whiskey from the kitchen pantry. She opened the bottle and pulled a sip of the spirit into her mouth. She let it stand in her mouth for a few seconds. It's numbing effect felt good on her mutilated gums. She poured the rest of the bottle on the logs in the stove and lit it on fire. There was only one way to end all of this.

To burn the mother fucker to the ground.