I write this to you as a man
of gratitude, and now of sorrow,
who never knew you
but knew you well.
You were a bloke but no mug,
an intellectual who trod the Oxford halls aplomb,
and a man of the people, loved, despised and revered,
and a human who understood travail and tears.
Flawed you were indeed,
enough to remind us of all our flaws,
but never with duplicity or double-speak,
no never that, for you were always
just plain Bob, the larrikin, who wore
his heart on his rolled up sleeve,
and had the common touch.
And you brought this narrow cultural
space in the boondocks of civilisation,
this desert of sensibilities that
resisted the call to change,
to the attention of the world.
You took and rescued our nationhood
and called us from out ahead to think again
about what it means to be Australian,
a true-blue Aussie, a mate, a human;
and you dragged us kicking
and screaming into Asia,
with our colonial voices raised to hell,
into this region where we should
always have profitably been.
And you became the enigma: as statesman
who skipped and danced terrific on the world stage,
and rebuilt our economy from the thin ground up,
and as the man at the pub with mates, seamlessly
drinking a yard of ale with fulsome cheers and smiles.
What debt do we owe you, our friend?
What you have given to this place that
rose from mediocrity to be a nation of the world.
But that is not a debt that you would
ever wish repaid, for you were only ever about
your love for this wide brown land.
In memory of the great Robert (Bob) Hawke