This poem was inspired by the poignant and disturbing photographs which a friend of ours took when he visited the Gonzales Jail which is now a museum. The Museum web site sports less troubling photographs. Our friend’s pictures showed the graffiti laden walls, covered with men’s names and dates and scratch marks for counting time together with the hangman’s noose and the trap door below it. They told of a cold menacing place in which misery and death went hand in hand.
Gonzales Jail, a museum now,
Displays a legacy of past sorrow.
Visitors view graffiti-laden walls,
Walk its echoed hell of halls,
Gaze at hard steel and stone,
Feel the anguish of men, now gone.
Men whose only claim to fame,
Is a date, a place, a name,
Carved upon the unforgiving face,
Of this impenetrable place.
The inquiring visitor can feel,
Ghosts slipping past bars of steel.
The seeker may catch unawares,
Phantoms slithering thru’ steel squares.
Dead spirits weeping, crying,
Their incarceration now defying.
The queasy voyeur may get more,
Grim Reaper lurking at gallows’ floor,
Hangman’s noose in the hand of death,
Object of many a man’s last breath.
The walls remember the moaning,
Each jailed man’s private groaning.
Their faces carry a record of stays,
Scratched bars ticking off sad days.
Justice’s walls held men within,
To pay society their debt of sin.
Now open, walls greet visitor, seeker,
Ghost, phantom and Grim Reaper
With equal stony hard defiance,
And an eternity of silence.
I’m really into it, thanks for this great stuff!
I’ve been to that jail-cum-museum. It is a nice 19th century building, red brick and limestone, as I remember. Inside? It is exactly as your poem describes. During our visit it was apparent that the documents and photos are not being carefully preserved. Perhaps that’s as it should be.
That Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes may give you a picture of the Australian penal colonies.
Thank you Ron, I have ordered The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes – sounds like an interesting read. I hope that you are feeling better and able to make your trip tomorrow.
That could just as easily describe some of the convict settlement prisons in Australia. I marvel at how those convicts were so brutally treated and then marched off to chapel on Sundays to receive a religious speech. I think we have made some progress over the years, but certainly not in some countries I’ve visited in my travels.
In your posts you often include an image. I wish that I had been able to do this as it would have added to the image of brutality. Thank you for your comment about the Australian penal colonies – I didn’t even know that there were any!
Apparently England sent their convicts to the colonies in the US prior to the war of independence. When they were then denied access they established convict settlements in Australia. Those were brutal times.