Dear Bob

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

16/5/2019