The Bank’s Bottom Line
© Bob Magor

Winner, 2016 Bronze Swagman Award for Bush Verse, Winton, Queensland.

The executive opened the letter
    addressed simply, ‘To whom it concerns’.
At a bank which was one of the many
    self-obsessed by the profit it earns.
It began saying, ‘Sir, I’m a client
    and I farm with this husband of mine,
Though to you, Sir, we’re both merely numbers
    causing grief on your bank’s bottom line.

You were helpful extending more credit
    throughout years when the clouds wouldn’t rain,
Though you lassoed our land with a mortgage
    and encircled our necks in a chain.
But a farmer can’t conjure a cash flow
    when the seasons and prices decline.
And there’s no human faces on spreadsheets —
    just a smudge on your bank’s bottom line.

Please instruct all your bean-counting cronies
    to protect people working the land.
For despite highbrow qualifications,
    farming problems you don’t understand.
You might find, if you lived in the real world,
    rural income and drought don’t align,
With your greed always courting disaster
    for us camped on your bank’s bottom line.

Would you have more compassion for farmers
    if like them throughout droughts you weren’t paid?
Could you crawl cap in hand to a banker
    to explain why no profits were made?      
 When he treated your pleas with indifference
    would you think him a merciless swine
As he sneaked in his sly fees and charges
    adding cream to his bank’s bottom line?

If the stench of death lay like a blanket
    on the turf of your manicured lawn
Of your starving stock haunting your nightmares
    which awake you in cold sweats at dawn.
Then you mightn’t complain about traffic
    and the stress shuffling papers by nine.
Where a farmer’s despair never features
    on the graph of your bank’s bottom line.

Have your kids had to witness you sobbing
    with your face in the palm of your hand?
Having read an impersonal letter
    from a bank repossessing your land?
Have you come home from work to your fam’ly
    to discover a vile AUCTION sign
Which condemns your life’s work to foreclosure
    just to fatten a bank’s bottom line?

If you suit-and-tie vultures would venture
    up the dirt to your client’s front gate,
You’d discover the hands you’re evicting
    are the ones putting food on your plate.
In your crystal ball, gaze to the future
    sitting up at bare tables to dine
While complaining your dinner is tasteless
    as you chew on your bank’s bottom line.

If your balance sheets showed whims of weather
    with a column devoted to toil,
You might mark them as debit and income
    for the hardworking sons of the soil.
But you boffins in finance all thwart us
    from your ivory towers that shine,
Where no rain on the roof is a bonus
    in the glow of your bank’s bottom line.

With your bank profit flaunting ten zeros,
    please explain why each year you crave more —
Why the heartless demands from your boardroom
    make you saddle more pain on the poor.
For you sacrifice those who are needy
    from the depths of your insular shrine
Where the axe that you wield has no conscience,
    splashing blood on your bank’s bottom line.

And so, Sir, as I finish this letter,
    there is only one fact I must add.
From today I’m a new farming widow
    and my children sleep minus their dad.
For I found my man locked in his workshop —
    a statistic of rural decline,
Life cut short by a noose of your making
    from a length of your bank’s bottom line.’ 


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