People can’t say goodbye / any more. They say last hellos. In this poem the narrator says his last hellos to his father, who is dying from a brain tumor. Cecil (the father) seems wise and cantankerous, reflective yet humorous.

His son asks, "Sorry, Dad, but like / have you forgiven your enemies?" Cecil replies that he must have because he doesn’t think about them anymore. Later, near the end in the hospital, he tells his son, "You’re bustin to talk / but I’m too busy dyin." The son concludes, "Snobs mind us off religion / nowadays, if they can. / Fuck them. I wish you God." [76 lines]


This is a humorous, insightful poem about the wisdom of dying and the wisdom of letting our loved ones die. It radiates love and gratitude for the dead father. "We’re still using your imagination," the son says. "It was stronger than all ours."

Les Murray is probably Australia’s most widely known poet, both at home and on the international scene. In 1998 the federal government commissioned him to write a new preamble to Australia’s Constitution, one that would both articulate Australian values and celebrate the fact that Aboriginal people were the custodians of the continent before Europeans arrived.

The government rejected much of Murray’s draft preamble, and he later dissociated himself from the project. Voters in a November 1999 referendum rejected a watered-down preamble that had been offered by the government.

Primary Source

New Selected Poems


Duffy & Snellgrove

Place Published

Sydney, Australia