ONLY SIX YEARS

© Stephen Whiteside, 2012


Winner, 2012, C.J. Dennis Poetry Competition, Toolangi, Victoria.


It was only six years since the ‘Bloke’ hit the shops, and had rocketed into the sky;

Only six years since ‘Den’ put on wings, and showed the world how he could fly;

Only six years since Robertson wrote how the good book had gone ‘loop the loop’,

Yet now he was down on his uppers again, and fortune had clean flown the coop.


How do they do it, these masterful poets? (Lawson, of course, was the same.)

They write like sweet angels. They sell lots of books. Experts they are at the game.

They make heaps of money, but where does it go? Surely it’s not all for drink.

It vanishes swiftly like sand through their fingers, and pushes them back to the brink.


Dennis lived high at the Menzies Hotel as he bathed in the flush of success,

Or so I have read. Such spending, no doubt, groomed ground for the subsequent mess.

All of his life, till that point, had been tough. I can understand why he cut loose,

But I can’t comprehend why he didn’t do more to ease back, and ration his juice.


Investments went sour. The ‘Bloke’ silent film was not liked at all by the Yanks.

His shares lost their value - no joy to be found in peddling them to the banks.

He’d also bought shares in a timber mill. Why? Well, he lived in a forest of trees,

But that proved a dud in the way of the film, and brought the poor man to his knees.


Was it simply bad luck? Or a case of bad judgement? Things just could not have gone worse.

People in business do not make great poets. I guess that applies in reverse.

But why not accept that you don’t understand how the wheels of industry grind?

Avoid speculation. Invest somewhere safe, for the sake of your cash...and your mind.


But that’s not the way that they do it, these blokes. It has to have colour, and dash,

And then they complain when it goes bottom up, and they find they have squandered their cash.

I don’t mind so much that these big, grown up men should finish their lives on the skids,

But often you’ll find in the background, as well, dependents - a wife, say, and kids.


Now, Dennis and Biddy were not blessed with kids. Perhaps that was all for the best,

For if he had also some young mouths to feed, that would have proved quite a sore test,

But poor Biddy suffered, with ‘Den’ on the grog, and lost to the world half the time,

When really, you’d think, he’d be fit as a fox, a clever man, still in his prime.


It’s clearly much deeper then I can perceive. Genius has its own ways.

How do you drive a cerebrum like that without getting lost in its maze?

Or that’s how it seems, from the outside, at least. There’s stuff that I’m missing, no doubt,

And if I was trapped in his mind I would scream, “Let me out! Let me out! Let me out!”


But still, I just struggle. I can’t comprehend why it all went so sour so quick.

He must have been rolling in dough for a while from Doreen, the ‘Bloke’, Ginger Mick.

To think that he went from such ecstatic heights to valleys of heartache and tears,

That all he had fought for so hard, he had lost, and had lost it in only six years.

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