Sunday, January 08, 2006

ode to Baxter (and inmates)

This poem caught my eye:

O Baxter

What ails you to blight the landscape fair?
Like a thorn in the desert festering away
Parched of hope in the red-baked soil
Breaking the spirit in hopeless despair
Disallowing that human touch
With your steely surrounds and voltage scare.

Who cast you to hold so tight?
To weaken that grip
In your fearsome might
Of holding to life and what is so dear
Ignoring those pleas in captivity
And slamming the door on sanity fair.

How depressing your compounds
With nothing to see
Not even the hills or saltbush to view
Only the sky with its blue hazy stare
Frustrating the eyes in disharmony
What boredom you bring for those living there.

Your solitary cell depresses e’en more
With nothing to do
Devoid of a touch or voice to warm
Only the walls so blank and so bare
Whittling away that vestige of hope
Closing the door on freedom to spare.

How could your fortress be so cruel?
Torturing the mind in mindless form
Causing to weep on foreign shores
And wallow in a pit of despair
Breaking the spirit and will to live
Smiling upon that suffering there.

What mind could form you in this barren land?
So heartless and godless and free from sight
Wrought your steel hands of vengeance out
To freedom deny such richness share
Blocking the way for desperate care
Counting not cost for those trapped there.

Tom Mann

(Former teacher at Woomera detention centre and author of Desert Sorrow: asylum seekers at Woomera)

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