just shopping

he misses her in the supermarket
finds himself buying things
he never would have bought alone
hydroponic tomatoes
recycled paper for the smallest room

there’s no one to laugh with

he forgot the carry-bag from home
ah well that’s the way it goes
with the environment
everyone’s intentions are good

how is it
that holding hands in the aisle
where the butter is spreadable
and the cold comes from the cool chests
that store yoghurt
(he really almost bought yoghurt)
how is it that it seems OK

it was never so OK before

he misses her
and stocking up is just a chore
but sometimes
when he wheels the trolley around a corner
he can picture the selection
of fruit or veg
and it’s enough to make him stop
a nuisance to people
who just want to get on with shopping

© Frank Prem, 2010

For Mrs B – remember when?


the Carer Meeting

Psychiatry 4: Acute Observations – Poem 53

they are mainly older people

making tea
getting the biscuits
familiar with one another
from months or years of Meetings
like the Lion’s Club
or Rotary

one or two
look a little startled
half afraid

new to the game


I am meeting with a group of Carers
have been asked to seek their views
about service provision
and they are ready to tell me
have rehearsed and repeated their stories
many many times

no longer expect to get a response
but are happy to speak anyway
being listened to is cathartic
even if nothing happens

the stages of a career in Caring
for the mentally ill
are transparently on show


the Newbies

look stunned
haven’t come to terms with what it means
this intrusion of Mental Illness
into previously unsuspecting lives
not yet comprehending the future that awaits them
only wanting to know
what is wrong
how to fix it
that help will be there for them

does anyone know what this is
this Schizophrenia
why has it happened
why now
did we do something wrong

will it happen again


the Middle Stagers are angry
but to say that doesn’t do them justice
rope-able is better
they know they won’t get service
when they need it
that no beds are available
unless a life is at stake
that you have to be half beaten up
or expecting to die before anyone gives a shit

the only way to get a response
only way mind you
is to park your car
in front of the Ambulance Entrance
at the Emergency Department
and not shift it
if you want to get them to do anything for you
you have to inconvenience them

those people are supposed to be Professionals
to help those that need them
but they just don’t care

not until it’s too late


the Old Hands have seen it all

they’re angry too
but they have gotten to know the system
over the years
understand that the staff do their best
some better than others
but generally they do what they can
to make it work

when you’ve been around
twenty or thirty years
as some of us have
you learn things
like that you’ll be managing and untangling
this bloody sickness for the rest of your life
the rest of your loved one’s life anyway
so you better adjust to that

you learn where to put your finger
to get at the pulse of influence
the Senior Doctor
the Executive Officer
the local Member of Parliament
you keep at them to change
but you plan it out
brace yourself for the long haul

you have to make sure you keep enough strength
to manage your own ups and downs
look after the Newbies
hose down the others
and keep the pressure on

be sure they don’t add any policies
or make stupid changes
they haven’t asked you about first

we rely on each other in the group
to keep going on

but never mind that
would you like a cup of tea
before we start

so young man
what is it that you
want to ask us about

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – and the hell with the papers


mock orange



the day
was a stinker

every time I saw the sun
it burned me

every time
I looked into the orb
I went blind

now tangerine
the sky
so benign
is nothing but a stinker

no apology
no why
no promise
to put its ire

just a passive

good night

splayed in orange
across the face
of the clouds

a sugar mock
left behind
to remind me

left behind
to tease

© Frank Prem, 2017

February 2017 Poem #01: a towel to ride

that’s all (last Saturday)

Psychiatry 4: Acute Observations – Poem 52

Jesus doesn’t live in bed North 8

he might have visited on Saturday
that’s all

that’s all

the room is empty but for a bed

but for a blanket

but for the pillow
of a lonely girl
who believes something
she can’t explain
except to know it isn’t Jesus anymore


he might have been a visitor last Saturday
but that’s all

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – The Carer Meeting

sabres at patterson river

a flotilla of flat-bottomed sabres
red triangled teeth atop the white of a single sail
forty strong and tacking as a shoal         tightly bunched
with a solitary straggler to the rear
and one that is running hard to port and pointed
at the piece of flour-soft yellow sand
marked out as my personal territory by a towel and a book
and the clear blue overlay of cloudless sky


I have waited these three slow-passing months
of damp and lukewarm pseudo-summer
for such a day of unambiguous stinging heat
and the salt water is already autumn sharp
in a rapid-cooling contrast to the dry temperature
concentrated inches above the asphalt of a baking carpark
and the bleached loose grains that lie above water level
the slap of small-wave motion –
enough to force the awkwardness of balance on tip-toes
with each rise in depth towards the nethers –
is worth endurance for the clean freshness
of first submersion and aquatic acclimatisation


the wind is on the rise         the water shows a small white-headed chop
and is less attractive for the uncommitted
sabre teeth are sentinel poles and singing metal lines
pulled up before the club-rooms and above the high-water mark
various parties are packing up and going home
despite the forty five degrees of sun that still remains before curtain fall
on this Patterson River of powdered beach         gulls
and boats navigating the river-mouth channel in search of a berth
a broken trail of bright and silver shivers in their wake
reflects the last remnants of a Sunday on the bay

© Frank Prem, 2002


the disruption in Mary’s Room



stop it
stop it
I hate it
I hate it

I didn’t know
it would be
like that

it was the
that caused her reaction

all of her life
was shades
of grey
dark and light
black and bone
either full-block or absent

eeee!! eee! ee!

it was the suddenness
of the change
that caught her

made her cover her eyes

cry aloud

won’t you please
stop it

take it away

can’t you see
my eyes
can’t take it


they said that this would be
astounding for her
in a good way

but she wept

they said that
colour in her world
could only make it



so much more

it would be astounding

eeee!! eee!! eee!!

she had only ever known
the two colours
and not black

on blanc

was for clouds
grey was for shadows
black was the solid tones
of night

they should
have realised
that colour
was too much
for her to handle

she shut her eyes
and kept them closed
until they swore
the world
was as black
as the sun
is white

© Frank Prem, 2017

Poem #31: immigrants


backyard latin

the dragonflies
the sky
the sun

a dancefloor
in the air

tango sharp
they are

they are over




over there

how then
did they learn
to dance
in the air

like this

and quick-quick

then a slow
my dear

let me

around you

I’ll-stay close

a dragonfly tango
the dragonfly tango
I float above you
then it’s down I go

a dragonfly tango
the dragonfly tango
I fly beside you


I go

© Frank Prem, 2017

Poem #30: the disruption in Mary’s Room

a well-honed team

Psychiatry 4: Acute Observations – Poem 51

ah no
no no no

this is all over the place

I don’t believe what I’m seeing
what I’m involved in

there are ways to do this
simple ways
six staff
two for arms
two for legs
one for meds
and one talker

only one talker

but we’re all over the place
there are three staff talking
arms and legs have been left behind
and have to push past all the talkers
if they’re going to perform any kind of restraint

the patient is in a corner of the room
bed on one side
wall on the other
so we can’t get near her

and whoever went to fetch the injection
has been gone an age
this is supposed to work slick
minimise distress
minimise risk

what the hell is going on

trained professionals
that’s us




© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – that’s all (last Saturday)

mote song

is reverberation


I hear the song
sung by rays
of sun
as they fall

they strike motes
of the colored dust
that fills the air

spin them round

listen to the faint

the day sings


strike me  hard
spin me around
that I can add my own
and harmony
to the song of dust

the song of sun
the song
of every minute of the day


music is
resonant reverberation

© Frank Prem, 2017

Poem #29: backyard latin

this somebody’s boy

Psychiatry 4: Acute Observations – Poem 50

and he talks to me
this young man
in a babble of words

I say nothing
he’s too high

a touch of macho
surrounding an elevated mood
racing fast and furied
until he stops


dead quiet

and his face starts to move
into creases and crinkles
reshaping while he struggles
his eyes go glassy

and then it’s all sadness
this boy
this somebody’s little boy
is doing it tough

because it’s hard to be a man
all the time

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – a well-honed team