Sean Murphy

Work Song

Even during the worst of the day’s decalescence
they sang, in defiance of the sun or else the song
itself, interrogating all those slights, and sleights,
that conspired to put them on the roads they built,
black links sweating in bracketed chains, indivisible.

They sang, effecting a fleet and curious indemnity,
compensation for uncountable hours, life’s labors
lost or stolen, dissecting the unspoken or unspeakable
schemes: nameless and numbered, diseases contrived
as symptoms, sentences handed down like inheritance.

Even still they sang—coded texts for torn-out tongues,
the savage air aglow with conviction, an eloquence
unheard inside court rooms, their cells or their selves,
appeals indicting this shame, adjourning all judgment
and seeking recourse in words—free as they’d ever be.

Sean Murphy has been publishing fiction, poetry, reviews (of music, movies, books, and food), and essays on the technology industry for almost twenty years. He is currently the writer-in-residence at Noepe Center for Literary Arts at Martha's Vineyard. His website: