stories & poems

Kentucky is Snake Country

published in Issue 11 of Pluck! The Journal of Affrilachian Arts & Culture, 2014

My great-grandmother
at a hundred-and-one
tells me of hoop snakes who
bite their tails and roll like wheels
down the hills of Appalachia

of copperheads who hide 
in mountains like coal 

of black racers in barns who hiss speed 
and terror into the hearts of horses

water moccasins named 
Little Barren, Dix, Stinking Creek
who slither and twist through
palisades and Pennyrile
to writhe with Ohio and Mississippi

pit vipers who strike and strike the earth
โ€˜til the ground turns dark and bloody

of timber rattlers who shake bones
and before the white man came
spooked Shawnee and Cherokee
from ever settling

who later looped 
on tree branches wrapping
cotton mouths around the throats 
of swinging Negroes

serpents taken up and handled by deacons
tongues flickering with Pentecost flame
venom burning like bourbon neat

My great-grandmother 
at a hundred-and-one
tells me our land is shed skin 
of Edenโ€™s snake that Cain tucked 
into Abelโ€™s mouth after murder.

-Mark J. Royse

3 thoughts on “Kentucky is Snake Country”

  1. ื‘ื“ืจืš ื›ืœืœ, ื›ืœืงื•ื—ื•ืช – ืื ื• ื ื•ื˜ื™ื ืœืืžืฅ
    ืžืขืกื™ื ืฉื“ื•ื’ืœื™ื ื‘ืืกื˜ืจื˜ื’ื™ื” ื’ืžื™ืฉื” ืžื•ืœื ื•, ืืš ื™ืฉื ื ืœืขืชื™ื ื›ืžื” ืžืขืกื™ื ืฉืื™ื ื ื’ืžื™ืฉื™ื ืฉื“ื•ื•ืงื ื”ื ืขืฉื•ื™ื™ื
    ืœื”ืชื’ืœื•ืช ื›ืื ืฉื™ื ืฉืชืชื—ื‘ืจื• ืืœื™ื”ื ื•ืฉื™ืกืคืงื• ืขื‘ื•ื“ื” ืžืื“ ืžืงืฆื•ืขื™ืช
    ื”ืœื›ื” ืœืžืขืฉื”. ืžืื“ ื—ืฉื•ื‘ ืœืขื‘ื•ืจ ืขืœ ื›ืœ
    ืžื™ื ื™ ืกื•ื’ื™ื ืฉืœ ื”ืžืœืฆื•ืช ื›ื“ื™ ืœืืฉืฉ ืฉื”ื‘ื—ื™ืจื” ืฉื‘ื—ืจืชื ืื›ืŸ ืžืชืื™ืžื” ืœื›ื ืžื‘ื—ื™ื ืช ื”ืชื•ื›ืŸ ืฉืœ ื”ืขื™ืกื•ื™.

    ืขื“ ื›ื”, ืชื™ืืจื ื• ื‘ืฉืœื•ืฉื” ืคืจืงื™ื
    ื›ื™ืฆื“ ื ืจืื•ืช ืฉื™ื—ื•ืช ื”ื˜ืœืคื•ืŸ ืฉืœื›ื ื˜ืจื ื”ืขื™ืกื•ื™.
    ืฉื™ื ื”ื ื•ื—ื•ืช ืขื ื ืขืจื•ืช ืœื™ื•ื•ื™ ื‘ื—ื™ืคื” ืฉืžื—ื›ื•ืช ืœื”ื’ื™ืข ืขื“ ืืœื™ืš.
    ื™ืฉื ื ื’ื‘ืจื™ื, ื‘ืขื™ืงืจ ืื ืฉื™ ืขืกืงื™ื, ืืฉืจ ืจื•ืฆื™ื ืœื™ื•ื•ื™ ืœืื™ืจื•ืข ื•ื™ืฉื ื ืืช ื›ืœ ืฉืืจ ื”ืื ืฉื™ื ืฉืจื•ืฆื™ื ืœื‘ืœื•ืช ืขื
    ื ืขืจื•ืช ืœื™ื•ื•ื™ ื‘ืžื™ื˜ื”, ืขื™ืกื•ื™ ืื™ืจื•ื˜ื™ ืื™ื ื˜ื™ืžื™
    ื•ื“ื™ืกืงืจื˜ื™ ืฉื™ืขืฉื” ืœื”ื ื ืขื™ื. ื‘ื“ื™ืจื•ืช ืชื•ื›ืœื• ืœืžืฆื•ื ืืช ื›ืœ ืžื” ืฉืืชื ืฆืจื™ื›ื™ื.
    ื•ื‘ื›ืŸ ื–ื•ื”ื™ ื‘ื“ื™ื•ืง ื”ื‘ื˜ืจื™ื™ื” ืฉืืชื ืฆืจื™ื›ื™ื ืœื”ื˜ืขื™ืŸ.
    ืจืืฉื™ืช, ืื™ื ื›ื ืฆืจื™ื›ื™ื ืœืฆืืช ืžื”ื‘ื™ืช, ื›ืš
    ืฉืืชื ื—ื•ืกื›ื™ื ื”ืžื•ืŸ ื–ืžืŸ ื‘ื›ืœ ื”ืงืฉื•ืจ ืœื”ื’ืขื” ืœืงืœื™ื ื™ืงืช ื”ืขื™ืกื•ื™ื™ื ื‘ืจืžืช ื”ื’ื•ืœืŸ
    . ื‘ืฉื‘ื™ืœ ื‘ื™ืœื•ื™ ืขื ื“ื™ืจื•ืช ื“ื™ืกืงืจื˜ื™ื•ืช ืžื‘ื•ื’ืจื•ืช ืืชื ืฆืจื™ื›ื™ื ืฉื ื™ ื“ื‘ืจื™ื, ื ืขืจืช ืœื™ื•ื•ื™ ื‘ื•ื’ืจืช ื•ื“ื™ืจื” ืœืงื—ืช
    ืื•ืชื” ืืœื™ื™ื”. ืืชื ืจืง ืฆืจื™ื›ื™ื ื”ื ืื” ื•ืœื ืื›ืคืช ืœื›ื ืžืฉื•ื ื“ื‘ืจ ืื—ืจ?

  2. ืืžื ื ื ื›ื•ืŸ ืฉืœื—ืฅ ืฉืœ ืจืงืžื•ืช ืขืžื•ืงื•ืช
    ื”ื•ื ื‘ื“ืจืš ื›ืœืœ ื—ื–ืง ื™ื•ืชืจ ืžื–ื” ืฉืœ ืขื™ืกื•ื™ ืฉื•ื•ื“ื™, ืื‘ืœ ื–ื”
    ืœื ื—ื™ื™ื‘ ืœื”ื™ื•ืช ื›ื•ืื‘ ื›ื“ื™ ืœื”ื™ื•ืช ื™ืขื™ืœ.
    ื‘ืžืงืจื™ื ื‘ื”ื ื›ืื‘ื™ ื”ื’ื‘ ื—ื–ืงื™ื, ืžื•ืžืœืฅ ืœืคื ื•ืช ืœืขื™ืกื•ื™ ื˜ื™ืคื•ืœื™ ืžืงืฆื•ืขื™ ืขืœ ืžื ืช ืœื˜ืคืœ ื‘ืื•ืคืŸ
    ื”ื•ืœื™ืกื˜ื™ (ืฉืœื) ื‘ืกื™ืžืคื˜ื•ืžื™ื, ืืžื ื ื”ืจื‘ื” ืคืขืžื™ื ื ื™ืชืŸ ืœืžื ื•ืข ืืช ื”ื›ืื‘ื™ื ืœืคื ื™ ื”ื•ืคืขืชื.
    ื’ื ืื ื”ืžื˜ื•ืคืœื™ื ืžื’ื™ืขื™ื ื›ื“ื™ ืœืขืฉื•ืช ืขื™ืกื•ื™ ืžืคื ืง ื‘ื‘ื™ืช ืฉืžืฉ ืžื”ื ื”,
    ืœื›ื™ืฃ ื‘ืœื‘ื“ ื•ืžื‘ืœื™ ืœื—ืฉื•ื‘ ืขืœ ื”ื”ื™ื‘ื˜ ื”ื˜ื™ืคื•ืœื™ ืฉืœื•, ื”ืจื™ ืฉืขืœ ื”ืžื˜ืคืœ ื”ืื—ืจืื™ื•ืช ืœื”ืคื™ืง ืืช ื”ืžื™ืจื‘ ืขื‘ื•ืจ ื”ืžื˜ื•ืคืœ.
    ืขื™ืกื•ื™ ืœื ืฉื™ื ื‘ื—ื™ืคื” ื•ื”ืกื‘ื™ื‘ื” ื‘ืœื‘ื“ ื›ื“ื™ ืฉืชื•ื›ืœื• ืœื™ื”ื ื•ืช ืžืคืจื˜ื™ื•ืช, ื ื•ื—ื•ืช ืžืœืื” ื•ืœื”ืคื™ืง ืืช ื”ืžื™ื˜ื‘ ืžื™ื•ื ื”ื›ื™ืฃ ืฉืœื›ืŸ ื•ืžื”ืขื™ืกื•ื™ ืฉืœื›ืŸ.
    ืืชื” ื™ื›ื•ืœ ื’ื ืœื”ืฉืชืžืฉ ื‘ืขื™ืกื•ื™ ืกืคื•ืจื˜ ื›ื“ื™ ืœื”ื’ื‘ื™ืจ ืืช ื”ื’ืžื™ืฉื•ืช ื•ื”ื‘ื™ืฆื•ืขื™ื.
    ื‘ื”ืชืื ืœืฆืจื›ื™ื ืฉืœืš ื”ืžืขืกื” ื™ื‘ื—ืจ ื”ืื
    ืœื ืงื•ื˜ ื‘ื˜ืงื˜ื™ืงื” ืฉืœ ืœื—ืฅ ืขืžื•ืง ืื•
    ืฉืžื ื‘ืขื™ืกื•ื™ ืžืจื’ื™ืข. ืกื•ื’ ืฉืœ ืขื‘ื•ื“ืช ื’ื•ืฃ ื™ืคื ื™ืช, ืขื™ืกื•ื™ ืฉื™ืืฆื• ื›ื•ืœืœ ืœื—ืฅ
    ืžืงื•ืžื™ ื‘ืืžืฆืขื•ืช ืืฆื‘ืขื•ืช ื”ืžื˜ืคืœ (ืื• ืœืคืขืžื™ื ื”ื™ื“ื™ื™ื ื•ื”ืžืจืคืงื™ื), ื”ืžื•ืคืขืœ ื‘ืจืฆืฃ
    ืงืฆื‘ื™ ืœืื•ืจืš ื”ื’ื•ืฃ. ื”ื•ื ื™ืขื™ืœ ืœื˜ื™ืคื•ืœ
    ื‘ืคืฆื™ืขื•ืช ืœื—ืฅ ื—ื•ื–ืจื•ืช ื•ื ืฉื ื•ืช, ื›ื’ื•ืŸ “ืžืจืคืง ื˜ื ื™ืก” ืื•
    ืชืกืžื•ื ืช ื”ืชืขืœื” ื”ืงืจืคืœื™ืช. ืžืกืคืจ ื˜ื™ืคื™ื ืœื˜ื™ืคื•ืœ ืžื•ื ืข ืฉืœ ื›ืื‘ื™ ื’ื‘.

    ื›ืื‘ื™ ื’ื‘ – ืกื™ื‘ื•ืช ื•ื˜ื™ืคื™ื ืœื˜ื™ืคื•ืœ ืžื•ื ืข.
    ื›ืื‘ื™ื ื‘ื’ื‘ ื›ื•ืœืœื™ื ื›ืื‘ื™ ืฉื›ืžื•ืช ื•ื›ืชืคื™ื™ื, ื›ืื‘ื™ ื’ื‘ ืชื—ืชื•ืŸ ื•ื›ืื‘ื™ ืžื•ืชื ื™ื™ื.

    ืขื™ืกื•ื™ ืฉืžื˜ืคืœ ื‘ื›ืื‘ื™ ื’ื‘.

  3. ืงืœื™ื ื™ืงื•ืช ื™ื•ืงืจืชื™ื•ืช ื”ืžืฉืœื‘ื•ืช
    ืื•ื•ื™ืจื” ื‘ื™ื™ืชื™ืช ื—ืžื”, ืœื”ืฉื›ืจื” ืขืœ ื‘ืกื™ืก ืฉืขื•ืช/ื™ื•ืžื™ /ื—ื•ื“ืฉื™ ื‘”ื‘ื™ืช ื”ืจื•ืคืื™ื – ื”ืžื•ืฉื‘ื” ื”ื’ืจืžื ื™ืช” ื‘ื—ื™ืคื”.

    ื”ื“ื™ืจื•ืช ืฉื•ืžืจื•ืช ืขืœ ืจืžื” ืžืื•ื“ ื’ื‘ื•ื”ื” ื•ืžื ืชื”ืœื•ืช ืžืžืฉ ื›ืžื•
    ื‘ื™ืช ืžืœื•ืŸ ืขื ื“ื’ืฉ ืขืœ ื“ื™ืกืงืจื˜ื™ื•ืช ื’ื‘ื•ื”ื”.
    ื‘ืขื‘ืจ ื”ื™ื” ื ื”ื•ื’ ืœื—ืฉื•ื‘ ืฉืงื”ืœ ื”ื™ืขื“ ืฉืœื ื• ื™ื”ื™ื” ืžื”ืกื‘ื™ื‘ื” ืืš ืจื‘ื™ื ื”ืžืงืจื™ื ืฉื”ืœืงื•ื—ื•ืช ืฉืœื ื• ื™ื’ื™ืขื• ืืœื™ื ื• ืœืงืœื™ื ื™ืงื” ืžืจื—ื•ืง, ืจื—ื•ืง
    ืžืื•ื“ ืจืง ืื ื ื“ืข ืœืชืช ืœื”ื ืืช ื”ืื•ื•ื™ืจื” ื”ื ื›ื•ื ื”, ื”ื”ืจื’ืฉื” ื”ื ื›ื•ื ื”, ื•ื›ืืŸ ืงืœื™ื ื™ืงื” ืžืขื•ืฆื‘ืช ืžืฉื—ืงืช ืชืคืงื™ื“ ืžืจื›ื–ื™.
    ื›ืœ ืฉืขืœื™ื›ื ืœืขืฉื•ืช ืœืœื—ื•ืฅ ืขืœ ืงื˜ื’ื•ืจื™ื™ืช ืขื™ืกื•ื™ ืื™ืจื•ื˜ื™ ื‘ืชืœ ืื‘ื™ื‘ ื”ื•ื ืœื‘ื—ื•ืจ ืืช ื”ืžืงื•ื ื”ืงืจื•ื‘ ืืœื™ื›ื ื‘ื™ื•ืชืจ, ืœื”ืจื™ื ื˜ืœืคื•ืŸ ื•ืœืงื‘ื•ืข ืืช ื”ื’ืขืชื›ื.
    ืžื—ืคืฉ ื“ื™ืจื•ืช ื“ื™ืกืงืจื˜ื™ื•ืช ื‘ืชืœ ืื‘ื™ื‘?
    ื‘ืื•ืชื” ื”ืžื™ื“ื” ื“ื™ืจื•ืช ื“ื™ืกืงืจื˜ื™ื•ืช ื‘ืจืžืช ื’ืŸ ืžืชืื™ืžื•ืช ืœื‘ื™ืœื•ื™ ืขื ื”ืžืื”ื‘ืช.
    ื‘ื™ืŸ ืื ืืชื ื’ืจื™ื ื‘ื—ื•ืœื•ืŸ ืื• ืžื’ื™ืขื™ื ืœืขื™ืจ ื‘ืžืกื’ืจืช ืขื‘ื•ื“ื”, ื‘ื™ืœื•ื™ื™ื ื•ืคื ืื™,
    ื›ื“ืื™ ืœื›ื ืœื“ืขืช ืื™ืš ืœื‘ื—ื•ืจ ื“ื™ืจื•ืช ื“ื™ืกืงืจื˜ื™ื•ืช.
    ื”ืคื•ืจื˜ืœ ื”ื—ื“ืฉ ื‘ื ื•ื™ ื‘ื˜ื›ื ื•ืœื’ื™ื” ืžื”ื™ืจื” ื•ืžืื•ื‘ื˜ื—ืช,
    ื›ืืฉืจ ื”ื“ื’ืฉ ื”ืขื™ืงืจื™ ืฉืœ ืฆื•ื•ืช ืกืงืก ืื“ื™ืจ ืœืกืคืง ืœื›ื
    ื”ื’ื•ืœืฉื™ื ืชื•ืฆืื•ืช ืจืœื•ื•ื ื˜ื™ื•ืช, ื“ื™ืกืงืจื˜ื™ื•ืช ื•ืžืขื•ื“ื›ื ื•ืช ื‘ืžื”ื™ืจื•ืช ื”ื’ื‘ื•ื”ื” ื‘ื™ื•ืชืจ.

    ื”ื’ื™ืข ื”ื–ืžืŸ ืœื”ืจื™ื ืืช ื”ื›ืคืคื” ืื‘ืœ
    ืงื•ื“ื ืœื‘ื—ื•ืจ ื‘ืคื•ืจื˜ืœ ืฉื™ื›ื•ืœ ืœืกืคืง ืœื›ื 100 ืื—ื•ื–ื™ ื”ืฆืœื—ื”
    ืฉืœ ื‘ื™ืœื•ื™ ื ื•ื˜ืฃ ืกืงืก. ื ื’ื™ืฉื•ืช ืงืœื”, ืืคืฉืจื•ืช ืœืœื ืคืฉืจื•ืช,
    ื›ืš ืžื—ืฉื™ื‘ ืืชื›ื ื”ืคื•ืจื˜ืœ ื”ื™ื•ืงืจืชื™ ื‘ื™ื•ืชืจ ื”ืžืจื›ื– ืืช ื›ืœ ื”ื“ื™ืจื•ืช ื”ืžืคื•ืืจื•ืช
    ื‘ื™ื•ืชืจ ื•ื”ื ื•ื—ื•ืช ื‘ื™ื•ืชืจ ื‘ืœื‘ ืจื—ื•ื‘ื•ืช.

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