Eighty recurring convict ‘dargs’ embossed into the sandstone base,
worn by passing winds and hands that slowly rub away the trace
of prosecuted masons who built Darlinghurst’s Great Wall.
The curvilinear motifs are the signatures of toiling men,
punished to make the very goal in which they faced imprisonment—
stone by stone, they raised a pen to shut away them all.
In Britain, prisons overflowed with outcasts sentenced by the law.
The government sought solutions new; it set its gaze on foreign shores.
This land was ‘terria nullius’ so they dumped the unwanted here.
Sydney, penal state, emerged: the native clans subsumed, supressed—
their languages and cultures fade into the tampered soil that rests
beneath the concrete pavements next to Darlinghurst’s Great Wall.
Behind The Great Wall stood a penitentiary: the detainees,
who bad, corrupt, uncouth or rightly wronged by staunch moralities,
were left to starve under the watch of the ward, or else hanged.
Now, the institution is no more; an Art School operates in its place—
for civilization must prevail, and shameful histories be erased;
just ghosts, and books, and ‘dargs’ remain of the original plan: —
these ‘dargs’: crisscrossed formations, which embody labour’s straining breath;
these ‘dargs’: the colony’s cruel attempt to work the criminals to death,
and yet they did retain that one vague feature of identity.
The fragmentations of the past are roughly hewn into the frames
of carved blocks now withstanding Time until Time modulates each grain,
transfiguring them into the dust of Darlinghurst’s Great Wall.
We remember fallen soldiers—their sacrifice for regional wars—
For kings we erect towers, and we prostate at the palace doors—
Through grand monuments we plot humanity’s rise and fall—
But those who failed the system, or who the system failed, we shun.
We silence their contributions until our memories come undone.
We forget the first grim purpose of Darlinghurst’s Great Wall.