1 January 2020

Hi everyone
let me stand before you today as leader
to express my sincerest sympathies for your losses

for the fear, for the damage, for the deaths
most especially for the hours days weeks spent waiting for news, for help, for supplies, or just for some kind of clarity about what kind of crisis this was going to be
before it resolved into being the worst kind.

I’m sorry. I’m sorry beyond what words can say.

I apologise because I struggled to get to where I am
I worked hard for decades, I threw everything at it, I cut corners, damaged friendships, told lies and lost touch with my own truth along the way

I wanted to be at the top
and the truth is I didn’t have a plan for when I got here
I wanted to be a leader, not to lead
and now you need leading and I honestly, truly have nothing to give

in here it’s very dark, in here it’s hollow, in here there’s nothing to give

and I apologise because I have it
your country
myself and my friends, we have it
we have our hands on every lever

and we won’t give it back
not til the sun is dark at noon
the ash washes up on the sand
the smoke creeps in under the doors and fills the house
the stars are blacked out
the highways are cut off
the phones no longer work
the animals flee in great mobs from the smoke
the water is stolen out of the ground and sold back to you in tanks
the elderly are suffocated in the smoke
the hospitals are out of power
the families sleep in their cars on the beach
the kids are ready to rush into the water when the sirens go

if you have a fire plan, enact it now
remember, don’t use a wet blanket
a dry woollen blanket is the best coverage

until then, what else can I do but goad you?
with celebrations, with sports matches, with sneering newspaper columns to mock you?

in heaven, the sight of the suffering in hell is part of the reward
what’s the point of being up here if we can’t enjoy the sight of your pain?

here, have cricket!
have editorials complaining about swear words and rude gestures!
be scolded for your bad manners in the 45 degree haze!

here, this’ll rile them up!
this’ll get under the skin of the self-righteous urbanites!
give them a poke while they’re choking to death!
give them a lesson on manners while they wait to know whether they should evacuate
tell them how brave they are with a twinkle in our eye

because cruelty is part of our reward

and part of your punishment is to know that after me
comes another one like me
and another one, and another one

until the last exhausted family sheltering from the firefront on the beach stumbles into the surf