lost: one cockerel

This piece is taken from an unpublished collection drawing on my experiences working in the field of psychiatry, tentatively entitled ‘The New Asylum’, currently being developed into book format in collaboration with my wife Leanne Murphy.
Please note: Some instances of PG language appear in this piece.


he’s a skinny little kid is this one
wiry you’d call him

every so often he lets out a scream
blood-curdling really
first time you want to race
down to the seclusion room
and check to see that he’s alright
never mind if it’s time for the fifteen minute obs
or not

but he just smiles
a big whole-of-face and all-of-teeth smile
says no
it was just the devil he was yelling at
he’s all right




the little bugger has turned the bed upside down
it’s a solid block of foam rubber
on it’s arse in the corner of the room now

sheets and blankets everywhere
but at least he’s peed into the bottle
and hasn’t gotten into any finger painting

last time that happened
this aboriginal guy painted the national coat of arms
kangaroo and emu and shield
all over the wall in shit

it was that good I might have saluted
if I wasn’t laughing so hard


four hours is up
time for the mandatory medical exam

lord he’s a dag
grinning at us stupidly
with his eyes full of trust
and a complete absence of guile
but utterly unpredictable

when the doctor wants to put her stethoscope
onto his chest for a listen
he puffs himself up like a little cockerel


we’ve been through anti-psychotics
nothing has worked

we’re doing shock therapy
but he’s already too high

we’ve kept him away from illicit substances
he’s not using

we’ve nursed him in high-dependency
and in seclusion to keep stimulation low

nothing seems to work

he’s not much more than a kid this bloke
but I think his life is shot to bits

we’ve lost him

© Frank Prem, 2008


Another in this series is This Somebody’s Boy.

One thought on “lost: one cockerel

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