On the Gallows

by Joseph Parslow

On the gallows you remember a story your sixth-grade English teacher told you, about a man who, on the southern gallows of the American Civil War, fell through the trapdoor and straight out of the noose so that he stood as alarmed as the crowd before he fled down a nearby creek. But this is South America, not the American South. Through the black hood they tossed over you the Amazonian faces cringe and cackle. You see their brown eyes explore your body, which you know is still covered in mud. As the executioner slips the noose over your head and brings it snug against your throat you wonder if all the minds behind all these sets of eyes will remember your final six breaths the way you remember the tale of the hanged man. Between the time when the trapdoor opens and your neck breaks you see the mouths and eyes of your final audience yawn and dilate, and through their blackness you see and feel the way the hanged man felt when he learned in his final moment that slipping from the noose was mere fantasy.


Joseph Parslow writes from a very small room in Albany, New York. He has travelled to 18 countries, consumed both wild boar and reindeer, and has lived on a boat. He is the editor of the Holy Cuspidor.