Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Snakes and Crazy People

Carol Papenhausen


You never heard of it

but Mama lived in Hanging Limb

most all her life. Itty bitty place

with a big old oak tree

and a limb that stuck way out.

The hanging limb.

They’d lynch a man and leave

him up 'til he rotted.

My granny was crazy and Grampa

got shell shocked in the war.

Not enough sense between them

to raise chiggers, much less young ‘uns,

but they’d troop out under that oak

and point to the hanged man.

Mama’d seen the shadow of a rope,

twisting and swaying way over her head

in the mortal drone of a million flies.

When I was a little ‘un, a boy

threw a snake at me.

Wrapped round my back

and I swear they done heard me scream

clear up to Blue Hollow,

way across the creek.

To this day I swear I’ll kill anybody

throws a snake. The slither of it

on my bare back never did go away.

Never will, neither.

Like Mama still hears those flies

buzzing like a hive of bees

near the hanging limb.

Sometimes she sees a row

of turkey buzzards, hunched

in the top of that tree, their bald

ugly heads turned her way.



Carol Papenhausen is the author of two dozen short stories in print and online. She has also written two novels, published by, a royalty-paying publisher. Her poetry appears in several journals. She is a Fellow of the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Sweet Briar, Virginia. Papenhausen was born in Chicago and now lives in Knoxville, Tennessee.

© Carol Papenhausen

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012