Michael Walker

Gold Star - 20,777 Points (cv48488)

A Farewell Note. - Poem by Michael Walker

I worked so long in the shadow of Bob Menzies,
that I was surprised when he did step down.
After a caucus vote, I stepped up to become
the seventeenth Prime Minister of Australia.
I knew I was certainly ready for the top job.
At Immigration, I changed 'White Australia'.
As Treasurer, I knew all about the high notes,
and balanced the budget in decimal currency.
As Prime Minister, I sponsored a referendum
that recognized the Aboriginal people as citizens,
giving them the census, the vote and equal rights
I kept unemployment down, while wages went up.
I travelled the world more than ever before.
In Washington I said, 'All the way with LBJ',
when I sent our troops to that futile war in Vietnam.
In London, I criticized neutral countries.
My popularity was soaring in the opinion polls;
the Liberals won the 1966 election on a roll,
so that I no longer felt lonely and insecure.



It was late in 1967 that the tide turned.
My party lost seats in the Senate to Labor.
I was blamed for the loss, high inflation
and retaining under-achieving cabinet ministers.
Why not? I was a conservative by instinct after all.
No, I was not ruthless with dismissals, like Menzies..
Why did I allow a second inquiry into the 'Voyager? '
I was eventually proved right about that sinking.
Then the doctor diagnosed the depression I dreaded,
but carefully concealed behind a ready smile.


It was a Sunday morning in mid-December that I drove
with friends from my Portsea home to Point Nepean,
Port Phillip Bay, to see a round-the-world yacht race.
At noon, we drove on to the secluded Cheviot Beach,
which was well-known for its high waves and rip currents.
I decided to swim there, with a shoulder injury,
although my friends begged me not to risk it.
I waded into the shallows, then swam into the deep,
letting the current decide my fate, not sure
if I even wanted to return to the far-off shore.
I was alone in the water I had always loved
and when I saw high waves about to embrace me,
I knew it was all over.

-15 April,2015.

(Harold Holt, Liberal Party Prime Minister of Australia, January 1966-December,1967) .

Topic(s) of this poem: sea, suicide

Form: Dramatic Monologue


Poet's Notes about The Poem

It seems likely to me that Harold Holt committed suicide, although it could have been accidental drowning. His body was never recovered. There are still far-fetched conspiracy theories about Holt's disappearance, but they are just not credible.
Holt was recognized as a decent, honorable man, possibly too much so for top-level politics.
Before writing this, I read the biography: 'The Life and Death of Harold Holt', by Tom Frame. Three of Holt's friends that day were: Chris Anderson, Jan Lee, and George Illson. They saw everything. Frame treats Holt's disappearance as an inexplicable drowning, although he does mention suicide as a possibility.

Comments about A Farewell Note. by Michael Walker

  • Terry Craddock (6/25/2016 6:53:00 PM)


    'well-known for its high waves and rip currents.
    I decided to swim there, with a shoulder injury,
    although my friends begged me not to risk it.
    I waded into the shallows, then swam into the deep,
    letting the current decide my fate, not sure
    if I even wanted to return to the far-off shore.
    I was alone in the water I had always loved
    and when I saw high waves about to embrace me, '

    this is the siren call, the sea embraces and tests us, in moments of return to the living womb
    (Report) Reply

    1 person liked.
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  • Lyn Paul (11/24/2015 2:28:00 AM)


    Great to read your words of Harold Holt. Difficult for family when the true cause of death is not certain.

    todays politics: - Bill shorten appears to be drowning at present.
    Thank You
    (Report) Reply

    Michael Walker (3/8/2017 7:12:00 PM)

    Thank you for your kind comment about Harold Holt.

  • (10/26/2015 4:35:00 PM)


    A lovely narrative. Thank you Michael (Report) Reply

  • (6/1/2015 9:06:00 PM)


    It reminds me of March when I went to see a comedian and he started describing a city he went to uni in, without mentioning its name. I knew it from the very first description, 'Australia's 16th largest city', because I was born there and had checked it up only days before because I wanted to find out the larger ones. He went on and on and finally I yelled out the name to put an end to it, and it happened to synchronise exactly with when he actually named it., 'Toowoomba'.
    Good one, Michael. I remember him as a breath of fresh air after Bob. The televised search is still there too as an early memory.
    (Report) Reply

  • Kelly Kurt (3/25/2015 4:11:00 PM)


    Thank you for sharing this, Michael. Very poignant. (Report) Reply

    Michael Walker (3/8/2017 7:13:00 PM)

    I am glad that you liked this dark-shaded elegy Kelly.

Read all 7 comments »



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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Poem Edited: Friday, March 24, 2017


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