he does his best work
in pencil

all serve him well
to sketch outlines
mark details
shade in shapes
with shadows

and he is drawing
a small tree
a eucalypt sapling

placed off-centre
in the bottom third
of a sheet
of cotton paper

the leaves are formed
shade implies their colour

twisting as though
every single leaf is alive

and just in front
is drawn
a large bucket container

a breeze ripple
shows it to be
quite full

he will draw more
perhaps a line of rustic fencing

other detail

but that’ll be enough
for now


the trunk
catches his eye
at first sighting


the sapling appears
a young tree

the leaves are long and slender
low hanging
he can almost smell
the eucalypt oil
released under the warm of the sun

and he can’t understand
a matter he knows
he must attend to

replace the empty bucket
with a tank
drawn as full
as he can make it seem


it is magnificent
looks very much
a maturing redgum

the trunk is wide
and tall
reaching high
to the top of the sheet

they are a great big tree
and he can see
this one
is going to be
a beauty

so he takes down
the sheet
places it down
on the table

transparent paper tape
to abut one sheet
up against the other

almost seamless
no-one will ever
be able to tell

finds a new position
to accommodate the length
upon his easel

by tomorrow his tree
will be both sheets

and so he executes
another sketch
placed in the foreground

he knows
you can never get
too much water
to a growing tree


he didn’t manage
to fully draw his picture
or the spill and shape
or the teeming
of his other ideas

but the tree
at a sheet and a half
is just about
one thought enough

and he can’t be sure
in the end
just how big
it might be

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #01 (January, 2017): time awareness


Top 5 from the Bushfire set

Continuing the  retrospective posts, I’ve gone through the Surviving the Devil bushfire poem set to select five poems that are worth another airing. This series dates back to 2009 and languished in my archives because I didn’t know what I might best do with it, or for it. This blog gave me an answer, and I am most grateful for that.

The five  poems that I’ve picked out (with a note about my reason beside each) are by no means the ‘Top 5’, but I think they have merit for this purpose. They are as follows:

surviving the devil – a song of fire – What first caught my imagination – and not particularly in a good way – was the voices of people affected by the ferocity of devastation that came with these fires. More fierce, more devastating, more unstoppable, more helpless. All these things.

I tried to catch some of that and the piece opened up the rest of the series.

first bus to Marysville – Marysville is a pretty little hill town that was wiped out, with many dead and massive destruction. The photographs show ash mounds in rectangular patterns that were houses and house blocks. Graves, in some cases.

all in the ark for awhile – A story of joyous wonder in a small way. The tone of amazement the witness to the Inquiry had in his voice was what stayed with me.

Don decides – This chap lived across the road from Leanne and myself in 2009. I watched his preparations over a day or two and I could see and feel his indecision as to what he should do. What was right. What was best.

Also, the sense of relief when he returned to find all intact.

rebuilding for ferals – This poem relates to the great question – the reason why. Why do we fight? What is our place? What does home mean? Is the least of us worthy of a place to call home?

Clearly, the answer is yes. Even our ferals need to have a place they can identify as their own.

Hope you don’t mind looking again at these few fire poems, and if you’d like to look at more of my Top 5’s (or thereabouts), there should be a link in the categories listed on this page.



Top 5 (or 6) – end of year review

Top 5 for 2016 – from the archives (daily prompt)

Top 10 for 2016 – from the Poem-a-day Collection (Part A)

Top 10 for 2016 – from the Poem-a-day Collection (Part B)

Top 5 from the Bushfire set

Top 5 – Mythologically inspired poems

shopping (every day)

every day
he goes shopping
in the afternoon

he can’t go
in the morning
it takes a long time
to wake up
these days

the burden of a shower
is an exhaustion
that lasts
beyond the towel
beyond a shave
beyond the donning
of a singlet
and putting on
his outdoor shorts

he’ll lean awhile
on the kitchen bench
audible gasps
of stale
emphysemic air

while he reads
the gospel
in his daily

he navigates the cooking
to be ready
come lunchtime
twelve o’clock
then serve
is the tradition
that became a rule

a grandpa nap
and a quiet
lung settling
in the easy chair
is the closest point
to no-gasping

but every day
he will go shopping
in the afternoon
at the self-service grocery
off the main drag
where he can manage his laps
by resting on the arm of the trolley
when he needs
some air

at the lotto shop
he’ll look
for convenient parking

a quickpick ticket
eighteen lines
to a fortune
he doesn’t need
or want
it’s important
you have to know
that you’re still
in it

it’s something to speak
every evening
with a beer
at the local pub

but pharmacy
for steroid pills
and inhalers
is a little bit harder

there’s always
some prick there
in the disability
parking space

so he drives around the block
four turns
to every square
and to bring him
back again

no space?

what to do?

go around again
dear sir
go around again
or just go home

to try again


© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #33: sketch


I on solid ground

there is a storm raging
across the heavens

I see the dark
destructive clouds
swarm and rumble

wind gusts with the lash
of driven rain
I feel the cut
I wear the blows

and still I stand
in the temple
of my home

I stand
inside the doors
no room for storms



rage you loudly
amongst the night
and darkness
but I
am holding
to the flame
that shows me clear
who am I
and why am I

I can stand
against terrors
flashed white on black
across the heavens

for here
on solid ground
am I

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #32: shopping (every day)

Top 10 for 2016 – from the Poem-a-day Collection (Part A)

In September 2016, I decided I would take a shot at doing a poem each day for a month. I’ve done this type of exercise before with good, but mixed, results.

At the time (end of August) I felt I was writing well enough and would perhaps benefit from the discipline of producing an acceptable piece of new work every day.

As it has turned out, I have found the project and process most enjoyable, and have extended it, so that it has encompassed September, October, November and now December. My thinking is that I’ll push on towards a full year of daily work, but we shall see. There are times when I have found myself a little daunted and a little mentally drained. If the quality feels like it is falling away, I’ll call it off and be grateful for what’s come so far.

I’ve had a little scan through the poems that have been put up at the blog site to see what has been achieved, and to try to whittle down a group of poems that might be worth drawing fresh attention to. (Any excuse for a Top 5 Top 8 Top 10 post, really). This was going to be a Top 5 post, honest, but I couldn’t do it. I think I’m a bit close to them still, so I’ve settled on 2 per month.

The first four I’ve picked out, plus an honorable mention (with a note about my reason beside each) are as follows:

September 2016:

digestive fibonacci: fractal-izing mandelbrot: This was an oh wow small moment,with gigantic extended implications (sort of). It’s just about a snail and some broccoli, right?

there – at the gorge: Leanne’s painting of the gorge – her first landscape – is as real to me as touching. I know the place, the feel of the water, the slip of the rocks. To see it is to be transported to a childhood place, where that could just be me there, under the curtain of water …

October 2016:

tenderfoot dancer: Well, this was a bit of a hoot. That’s all. I think it came from a willful misreading of a gardening text, but in any case, the idea made me laugh. I hope you do, too.

way poem #3: to a higher place: A coffee poem, and one of the first of what became a series of ‘way’ poems. I was playing with some ideas I had about the Tao, and ended up with a themed set that I enjoyed doing very much.

October 2016 honorable mention:

way poem #5: the five steps to wheaten pecks: This because I have been studying the ageing and gradual physical and mental deterioration of my parents into their old age. I find the inexorable decline quite moving at times and my father’s descriptions of his relationship with his last remaining hen seemed potent to me.

Hope you enjoy looking again at these few pieces, and if you’d like to check out some more, there should be a link in the categories listed on this page (I think).

Part B tomorrow.



Top 5 (or 6) – end of year review

Top 5 for 2016 – from the archives (daily prompt)

Top 10 for 2016 – from the Poem-a-day Collection (Part A)

Top 10 for 2016 – from the Poem-a-day Collection (Part B)

Top 5 from the Bushfire set

Top 5 – Mythologically inspired poems

interpreting signals

the clouds are grey
massing above us
filling the horizon
away to the west

untranslated semaphore
is sending messages
of what the heavens have in store

if only I
could understand them
the signals flying all around me
in the telegraph line
that is the air

but I am blind
I cannot see them
I am deaf
I cannot hear
I cannot read the portent
of what the storm-front has said

I wait here
with those few senses
that I own
open to the sky
waiting for the weather to show
with a kiss on my skin
from the wind
with a wet touch
fallen from a droplet
of rain

I am waiting

the clouds
away in the west
are grey

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #31: I on solid ground


a touch from a dancer

the music is the ponderous
jaunty slow-time
of a carnival organ

a pair of bears
dance in a small arena
of children

two shuffled paces
then each raises a hind-leg
leans forward
touches paws with the other

and mouths open
turn their faces
to the audience

half-skirt and flower hat

yellow baggy overalls

two steps backward
repeat the dance
in slow rotation to the left
a salute to all sections
of the tiny crowd

circuit complete
they stand side-by-side
waggle heads and hands
while an announcer bumbles commentary
into an inexperienced microphone

the show is over

leaving the arena
to the echo of small applause
and little voices
they pass close to where I stand

the female head
all fixed open-mouth smile
and lolling red-cloth tongue
turns over-sized brown button-eyes
towards me

reaches with a paw
to touch my face
before shambling
to the change-room

© Frank Prem, 2008

an unsuccessful journey towards the promised land

all right all right

the leader said

all those of you
who do not know
the way
make a line

make a line there

make a line

come up close
come up close

come up closer

take a tail
in your mouth
but do not bite it

I said
a tail in your mouth
but no
no biting

now first rank
you may proceed

second rank
you may proceed

third rank
oh no
who dropped their tail

fourth rank
oh no
oh no oh no

in the chaos
of half liz-
seeking their tails
running over everybody else’s

and the wriggling
of discarded rears

the leader
when out of the assembly’s gaze
slipped beneath
a convenient stone
pressed his nose

close up
to his own tail

and sought again
for his dream

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #30: interpreting signals


Way Poem #17: Boat to the Island

The good folk at The Drabble have given me a lovely Christmas gift by publishing one of my Way Poems – #17 the island, today.

Thank you Drabblers, I am delighted.

The Way poems were a little set that arose rather loosely from a consideration of Tao and the way it might be seen to work in different scenarios, and it’s lovely to see one of them in print.




By Frank Prem

the current calls

will you carry me

unfurl your sail
then let us drift together
beneath the sun

the lazy breeze
knows me well
and to where I’m bound


raise a little wake
for me

that I might feel the salt
and spray
as though we sail
for pleasure

my friend the breeze
has riffled my shirt
and you
are steadfast


let’s circle once
this island

the surf
broken on a shoal

the harbor

then tell the breeze
that I am ready
to ride the current
and her sweet luff

BIO: Frank Prem has self-published three collections of his work, The Book of Evenings (2003), Memoir of a Dog (2008), and Small Town Kid (2009).

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