Australia Day Poems, Part 4: The Cruelty of Us Today

aboriginal-artWater 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

BLAME,

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.

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Comments

  1. Greed and Power , lies and deception is best I describe this Government. Our Aboriginals still have not many rights. We need a treaty asap, Still the only country that hasn’t yet! shame on Government’s and a bigger shame to the so and so’s who put Martin away in the manner they did! I haven’t given up yet! As for Australia Day, well this is a joke too, how can we honestly call ourselves Australians when we don’t give the Aboriginal’s their rights to live a normal life! all we have done is set a path to their misery! and that’s deliberate also! Wake up Australia !!

  2. ‘We’ll All Be Rooned Said Hanrahan’
    That’s pretty much about all I know.

    • Love ya, Kev. I know “they” are allus messin up yer comupter, so I fetched it for you from TROVE at National Library nla.gov.au

      Said Hanrahan. By John O’Brien

      “We’ll all be ‘rooned’ ” said Hanrahan,
      In accents most forlorn,
      Outside the church ere Mass began
      One frosty Sunday morn.
      The congregation stood about,
      Coat-collars to its ears;
      And talked of stock and crops and
      drought
      As it had done for years.
      “I believe y’re right,” said Daniel
      Croke ;
      “You’ll find I’m right, bedad,
      For never since the banks went broke
      Has seasons been so bad.
      ” It’s looking crook,” said young O’Neil ;
      At which sedate remark
      He squatted quietly on his heel,
      And chewed a piece of bark.
      And all around the chorus ran —
      “It’s keepin’ dry, no doubt.”
      We’ll all be ‘rooned,’ said Hanrahan,
      ” Before the year is out. ”
      ” The crops are done ; ye’ll have your
      work
      To get one bag of grain ;
      From here way out to Back-o’-Bourke
      They’re singing out for rain.
      ” They’re singing out for rain,” he said,
      ” And all the tanks are dry ;”
      The congregation scratched its head
      And looked around the sky.
      ” There won’t be grass, in any case,
      Enough to feed an ass.
      There’s not a blade on Casey’s place
      As I kem down to Mass.”
      ” If rain don’t come this month,” said
      Dan
      And cleared his throat to speak ;
      ” We’ll all be ‘rooned,” said Hanrahan,
      ” If rain don’t come this week.”
      A heavy silence seemed to steal
      On all at this remark ;
      And each man squatted on his heel, and
      chewed a piece of bark.
      ” We want an inch of rain, we do,”
      O’Neil observed at last ;
      But Croke maintained we wanted two
      To put the danger past.
      “If we don’t get three inches man,
      Or four to break this drought,
      ” We’ll all be ‘rooned’ ” said Hanrahan.
      ” Before the year is out.”
      In God’s good time down came the rain,
      And all the afternoon
      On iron roof and window pane
      It drummed a homely tune.
      And all the night it pattered still,
      And lightsome sleepless elves
      In dripping spout and windowsill
      Kept talking to themselves.
      It pelted, pelted all day long
      A singing at its work,
      And every heart took up the song
      Way out the Back-o-Bourke.
      And every creek a banker ran,
      And dams filled overtop.
      ” We’ll all be ‘rooned’ ” said Hanrahan,
      ” If this rain doesn’t stop.”
      But stop it did in God’s good time,
      And spring came in to fold
      A mantle o’er the hills sublime
      Of green and pink and gold.
      And day went by on dancing feet,
      To harvest hopes immense,
      And laughing eyes beheld the wheat
      Nid-nodding o’er the fence.
      And oh ; the smile on every face,
      As happy youth and lass,
      Through grass knee-deep on Casey’s
      place
      Went riding down to Mass.
      But round the church in clothes genteel
      Discoursed the men of mark ;
      And each man squatted on his heel
      And chewed a piece of bark.
      ” There’ll be bush fires for sure, my man.
      There will beyond a doubt.
      ” We’ll all be ‘rooned’ ” said Hanrahan,
      ” Before the year is out.”

  3. “Control orders” anyone? The US State Dpt refused to renew Paul Robeson’s passport in the 1950s because of his friendly relaions with workers worldwide.

    Watch out for friendly people! Watch out for workers!


    .

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