Frank X Walker

I Thought Slavery Was A Song

Isaac Murphy
I don’t remember any shackles. I remember Mamma always singing
and daddy whistling out the door in the half-light of morning
returning to us almost mute after the tobacco barn swallowed the sun.
I didn’t know what it meant to be worked like a dog but I knew
it had something to do with being too dog gone tired to eat
I have this memory of mamma handing me a tied up old rag
and sending me to a field where daddy was driving a mule team.
He was sweating so hard it looked like he’d been standing in the rain.
I remember how he hummed when he unwrapped mamma’s gift biscuit
and bacon scraps, the moaning sounds he made with every slow bite
and the song on his lips when he finished. I remember him shooing me
out of the shade he’d told me to stand in and on back to the cabin,
his clucking and chatter with the mules, the sound of their stubbornness
and mine, but mostly I remember the songs



“I Thought Slavery Was A Song” is from I Dedicate This Ride: The Making of Isaac Murphy (Old Cove Press, 2010).