way poem #10: a court farewells its king

when the tomb was bared
the king
appeared to be at rest

his face towards home
his hands held
in peaceful pose

the queen
lay beside him
in her separate space
she too was serene
as though no more
than sleeping

a maid had twisted
from her side
to gaze up

the cousin seemed to feel
the lack of air
clutching at her throat
to aid
one more shallow breath

the harem in disorder
hands holding tears
to long lost eyes

the weakest one
had crawled
beneath her last bed
to hide

the eunuch from the harem
in attendance
for eternity
has parted from his head

all covered in an hour
five thousand years ago
just as
it was meant
to be
beneath heaven

© Frank Prem, 2016

November 2016, Poem #1: way poem #11: how I thought, it was


rocket seeds and a helpful drip

you’re picking seed-balls
out of lettuce
coloured in oranges
and browns

and we take a moment
to marvel
at nature

this is the first season
of our garden

its only modest
every night
there’s an offering
with dinner
and now the roquette
has gone to seed

we walked
this morning
to the river

brought back home
a bucket filled with sand

propagation is proceeding

seeds to seedlings
then to plants

I keep fiddling with the water system
it’s a small responsibility
but one that aches in me
an urgent
obsessive pain

plastic fittings
don’t seem to work right

this time it’s a burred
bent thread

last time it was clearly
more my thinking

but this is a drought
you know
and the water needs to drip
exactly as required

we don’t want to waste
any wandering drop
and otherwise
I don’t suppose
I would do anything
at all

you look so
of the earth
in dirt
and dust
and smudges

I want to claim
at least
a modest contribution
to stay a part
of the adventure

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: lagoon #17

Back to Drought/Lagoon – Introduction

pigeon philosopher

he got an old cable drum from Telecom
looked like nothing at all
looked like
a massive cotton-reel

narrow centre
flared wide ends

he decided to section up some spare pine-board
cut to size and tacked around the outside of the thing
to board it up

when he made three entry holes
and sat it on a pole in the chook-yard
each pair of nesting birds
had a home

it was the first of many homes
the first of many birds
so many pairs in grey and white

in shining purple necks

in puffed out chests

a man can take pleasure from his birds
when they’re housed well
and comfortable


every day brings a task
in the chook-yard

be it inventing a clever feeder
or laying down empty pellet bags
beneath the perches
to make periodical cleaning of the muck
a straight-forward thing

every day there’s something

until he stops
halfway through a task
to watch the birds

he sees it all

the strut of coo-ing males
the parental beauty of shared rearing

sparrows and starlings
sneaking into the hen house
to steal golden-yellow wheat

caw-caw-ing hens scratching
at a fresh throw of vegetable scraps
of grass cuttings

of the last lettuce
from the garden

he just stops halfway through a task
to watch


he said to me
if we could be a little more like his birds
we’d be ok

I laughed

and what’s wrong
he said
with pigeons

they’re alright

they mate for life
you don’t see adultery in pigeons

they raise their young
in pairs

so proud while they’re feeding
and preening them

the mother gets

a look

I think they’re beautiful


he worries about the eggs
almost paternally
doesn’t like it
when they get rejected

says it’s right
because the egg must have been bad
but it’s better when they rear a pair
not singles

he laughed to tell me
there were lesbians in the flock
a pair of females raising young

watched them close
wasn’t convinced they could be natural

but it made him smile
a sly half-embarrassed smile
and I enjoyed that


last night after dark
he went to the roost so quietly
I hardly heard him go
and I don’t think the birds even fluttered
when he arrived

there was just a quiet coo

he told me he had to cull
or he’d be floating on the feathers

there’s no need to get

he loves his birds
but that’s all they are
though they can help a man sometimes
in his thinking

through the day
in the garden
when he just watches them

they’re nothing very special
just his pigeons

© Frank Prem, 2010

mysterious woman (and duck)

she’s a bit of a mystery woman
lives two doors up
behind a high brick wall
that’s a little out of the usual
on our avenue

an ageing blonde
with slavic black brows
and a painful limp

speaks italian

friendly enough to me
and to the lesbian girls next door
and to old frank over the road
but keeps herself to herself
behind that high fence
attractive in a reserved
‘don’t get too close’ kind of way

none of which explains
the flash of brown
with teal at the outstretched tips
that announced itself
with a kind of braying honk!
seconds before I saw it pass
sideways on and at a rate of knots
along the piece of road
visible from my driveway

I can tell you that it landed
and I saw it give a shake
that started at beak and ended
in an ecstasy of waggled tail
before it sauntered under the gateway
and disappeared into the woman’s yard

she’s a mysterious woman that mira

but curiously attractive

© Frank Prem, 2001


lagoon #16

such a difference
in just a short time

it is hard to recognise the lagoon

the ground covered by water
has receded

it is larger than a puddle
and has some time left
but it has been ravaged

around the edges
a darker colour
where the ground is moist

a little wider
the green of in-between pond grass
of some kind
thriving on the borderline
between dry and wet

wider still
the colour has been leached
from the grass
that was at the in-between point
when water levels
were higher

when I first looked down
on this water
two fallen trees
were mostly submerged
heron and ducks perched
at the base end of the trunks
above the water

I can study the entirety
of the trees

there is little concealed
below waterline

this sad phenomenon
is a fascination

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: rocket seeds and a helpful drip

Back to Drought/Lagoon – Introduction



by a confidant breeze
to ears of grass
that reached as high
as the sky
is tall

with burden bowed
their heads nod down
nod down
to the ground
they bend so low

oh how they wish
they’d paid no heed
ignored the vex
of that soft zephyrous moan

but too late now
their own they are
the secrets
of the sough

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #35: way poem #10: a court farewells its king


And So To Work

the sun of morning east
casts tower shadows to drape Collins Street
in filter light across the backs
of scurry workers on pilgrimage
to their place of crusts and earnings
and the rituals of grinding
for another day

the tedium of noise and hurry again wakes
edifice and asphalt from slumber
with the metal grind and squeal of tram wheels
making right hand turns one minute late
according to the schedule posted
on the standing pillow of a potential passenger
too early from his bed
but still on time to meet the office
for a cup of coffee to arouse
admiration from the forty fourth floor

at the privilege of a view upon the south east
green of parks and suburban trees
flowing from the distant hills of the Dandenongs
along the wavering line of the muddy Yarra
passing beneath the oars of ‘eights’
and bridges of determined traffic
glinting brightly at the green and empty courts
of the tennis centre
and the nine tracks of electric rail
bound inwards
to end finally in the shadows cast
beside a neighboring tower
across the edge of Spring and Collins Streets
in the sun of morning east

and so to work

© Frank Prem, 2000


a departure by the boy child

there was talk again
of el niño coming to an end

like the end of a season
or an equinox

how will we know
I wonder
when it has occurred

will a wet begin

it’s late
and I should be asleep
but I’m up and thinking
about the boy child

the wind is sounding
and in the west
the quarter from which
we get our weather

they have had hail
and lightning

deluge rain

he is leaving already


© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: lagoon #16

Back to Drought/Lagoon – Introduction

way poem #9: poor saturations

how much oxygen
in your fingers?

one hundred per cent sat

how your lungs must work so
when you love your cigarettes
do you know
that this is dying
I wonder
do you care

light another cigarette
old friend of mine
old fool


how much oxygen
in your fingers?

eighty-eight percent sat

feel the world start closing in
but still
another cigarette
will help to clear your head
let me light you up
old idiot old friend
I can see you’re fading


how much oxygen
in your fingers?

sixty-five percent sat
to thirty-eight

and you don’t feel much like cigarettes
with an ambulance in your doorway
to put the mask across your face
try to breathe
while the machine’s still yelping
for life is all there is
dear boy


how much dioxide
in your fingers?

I fear
there is no room
there is no room

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #34: secrets

R.I.P Brian. Died 20/10/2016, aged younger than me.

way poem #8: journey by boat

mother night
I have grown weary
for the sea of this sky is long
and I have crossed her
one end to another
above the earth I’ve blown

my sun boat that glowed golden
is leading me
towards my home


mother night
come take me
to your arms where I may rest
for I’ve steered the ship of day
across heaven

and my sun boat has shone
to shoal

westward I am coming and
my boat
where to go

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #33: way poem #9: poor saturations