A Farewell Note. Poem by Michael Walker

A Farewell Note.

Rating: 4.5

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 wasready 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) .

A Farewell Note.
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.
Mamunur Rahman Kayes 04 December 2019

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..... lovely works

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Chandini Jaswal 20 November 2019

" Then the doctor diagnosed the depression I dreaded, but carefully concealed behind a ready smile. " The narrative is very gripping and the lines extremely thought evoking. The poem left me pondering how maddening the craving for power is. Great poem Sir.

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Michael Walker 24 November 2019

Thanks for your thoughtful assessment and good to see a correction also. 'The craving for power'- I wonder, actually, if Harold Holt had that quality. He had been depressed, with problems in the Liberal Party, and his marriage. That's why I think it was suicide.

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Chandini Jaswal 20 November 2019

Correction, thought-provoking

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Sankhajit Bhattacharjee 03 November 2019

deeply sensational piece...............10+

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Michael Walker 04 November 2019

Thanks for appreciating the 'different' dramatic monologue, in which I assume the persona of Mr. Holt-'I'. There are great possibilities for this poetic form, I think. Holt's position as PM, and the manner of his drowning, are dramatic in themselves too.

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Bri Edwards 29 September 2019

2 – i shy away from calling it poetry but it DOES have 'stanzas'. At least this was much more enjoyable and understandable than many 'poems' i read. ha ha. bri :) at first i was thinking: " was Michael W. prime minister of Australia? " how would i know? but MW is too young and seems to still be alive. p.s. HH was probably picked up by a submarine, deposited on some ultramodern private resort island and is currently surrounded by a bevy of beautiful broads.

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Michael Walker 29 September 2019

In the dramatic monologue you pretend to be the character who you are writing about. Hence the first-person 'I' (Holt) . It's also called the persona. It is actually not to hard to write in this form if you can imagine yourself being someone else. It all follows from there, rather like acting.

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Bri Edwards 29 September 2019

1 – i might agree with this comment: " Kelly Kurt (3/25/2015 4: 11: 00 PM) Thank you for sharing this, Michael. Very poignant." .....if only i was sure of the meaning of " poignant" ! really. i only use a limited number of words. :) a nicely-flowing account.

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Michael Walker 29 September 2019

Thanks for your brief but adequate comment. Please see above (to Bri) my comments on the dramatic monologue.

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