Water dreaming, artist unknown
by Mary W Maxwell
If you take the official tour of the Port Arthur Historic Site, the guide will mention that the 19th century prisoners there “dropped like flies” as much from exposure to extreme temperatures as anything else.
The poem that Judith Wright wrote about the old prison may or not refer to Port Arthur, but she sure caught the idea of the cold wind. (I guess they hadn’t yet invented “solitary confinement” – the men were at least in groaning earshot of one another.)
Gumshoe readers have a friend down Port Arthur way who is also being treated cruelly. Months ago I wrote a short, friendly letter to Martin Bryant and sent it c/o the Superintendent of the Prison, in case it got “lost.”
The superintendent sent it back to me with the message “Martin Bryant does not want to receive mail.”
I guess one can out-Kafka Kafka.
The Old Prison by Judith Wright ©
The rows of cells are unroofed,
a flute for the wind’s mouth,
who comes with a breath of ice
from the blue caves of the south.
O dark and fierce day:
the wind like an angry bee
hunts for the black honey
in the pits of the hollow sea.
Waves of shadow wash
the empty shell bone-bare,
and like a bone it sings
a bitter song of air.
Who built and laboured here?
The wind and the sea say
–Their cold nest is broken
and they are blown away–
They did not breed nor love,
each in his cell alone
cried as the wind now cries
through this flute of stone.
Concerning Risdon Prison Today:
by Cherri Bonney “Wish I Knew How To Be Free” ©
ANOTHER DAY HAS BEEN AND GONE,
DON’T WANT TOMORROW TO BE.
I SIT HERE CRYING, TRYING TO BE BRAVE, MUM,
WHAT ARE THEY DOING TO ME?
THIS SILENT ROOM REFLECTS THE PAST,
MY TORTURED DAYS AND NIGHTS.
HOW LONG WILL IT LAST?
WISH I KNEW HOW TO BE FREE!
I CAN’T SMILE — MUM KEEPS PRAYING FOR ME.
WHY DOES THE WORLD THINK I’M LYING?
LOOKS LIKE I’M TRAPPED IN TIME —
I’M TOLD I CAN’T BE FREED,
WHAT’S RISDON DOING TO ME?
YOU KNOW I SPOKE THE TRUTH WAY BACK THEN
AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN
WHY’M I IN PRISON, WHAT’S MY CRIME?
I KNOW I’M TRAPPED. THEY SAY THAT I AM TO
HEY, WHAT CAN I DO?
GOVERNMENT TOOK ME, AND LOCKED ME AWAY — HEY WHAT CAN I DO (HEY WHAT DID I DO)?
(PORT ARTHUR KNEW A LONG TIME BACK,
MARTIN WAS TREATED SO CRUEL,
HE WEARS THE SCARS. TASSIE LOCKED HIM AWAY.
AUSTRALIA, WAKE UP TO THE TRUTH!)
HELP ME OUT MUM, WHY CAN’T I GO HOME? THE
DRUGS THEY GIVE ME RUNNING BAD IN MY BRAIN,
NOBODY LOVES ME, AND I’M HATING THE PAIN.
CAN I GO HOME NOW!
I WANNA COME HOME NOW
CAN I COME HOME NOW
Cherri personally delivered her song, in CD format, to the Governor’s Mansion in Hobart about 10 months ago and is hoping to receive an acknowledgement.