orchestrated autumn

autumn snow
is colored brown
and gold

from the oak tree

the back yard
is leaf-blizzard
before the storm

flays the branches

the skies

a lightning fork
from top
to down
a staff
to conduct the show

© Frank Prem, 2017

Whose six-pack? Whose scotch?

There are three of us in a babbling hotel,
close to the happy hour.
He is older than I,
younger than my father.
A man full of stories about the town that he left
when he was young.

A rich balladeer,
unique in his capacity to reflect
through the escapists fortune
of having been away.

In all the years till my father died,
when I was a youth and when I was already a man,
I never once supplied, or offered to supply, beer
or whisky or wine.

When I brought my mates around home,
we drank his beer.
When my brothers and I came to visit,
we could not retire to our beds while there was a drop left
in the whisky bottle that he always had available,
even if it was just the two of us doing the drinking.

You know, I never even thought of offering to supply it,
whether drink or food.
Of course, I realise that he would have been offended
if I’d ever done such a thing, but,
especially since he died, I’ve thought about it a lot
and wished that
I’d bought a six-pack, or a bottle of scotch,
and at least made the gesture.

My own father responded,

well, that’s just the way they were
in those days, and now
you probably do the same for your own kids.

I looked at my father, and thought, yes,
that’s the way you have always been. Perhaps
I should get a six-pack or a slab of beer
to offer you, and see what you have to say
to that.

drink up gentlemen, it’s my shout.

What’ll you have?

© Frank Prem, 2003

a whole hour

Poem #24 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

settle down honey
we haven’t even started yet
you don’t want to fly
before we leave the ground
now do you

why don’t you just
hop in to the shower for me
like a love
while I fix some pillows
and a towel
my special oils
and essential equipment
or is that the other way around

you’ll like some of these

are you watching me
from in there
take a look at this

nice huh

now come on out
dry yourself off

lie down on your back a moment
while I take a little look at you

now I’ll just slip this on for you
hmmm you like that don’t you
I can tell


what would you like to do
to get us started

what would you like hon
no rush
we’ve got
a whole hour

© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #25: the idiot

frog call (ba bonk)

was once a frog
you know

upon a lily

it seems a foolish time
so far ago
but all of us
were young

a croak
is like a call
to love
sent by one

a croak is just
a song to sing
on wistful nights
of ripples
on the pond

and I still send
my song of love
though I’m no longer
on the lily

I call out my heart
once so alone
but now
I call to …

we are all just
crying on our lilies

sending songs pa-donk
just hoping for
an echoed bonk-ba-bonk
to give the hope
of love

© Frank Prem, 2017

company for a magpie

a magpie and a wagtail are keeping odd company on the park
the magpie has no partner and is not part of a gang of bachelors
he bustles on the ground in a few running steps this way and that
pauses to assess and then hurries forward again
the wagtail matches the running movements in a manner almost mocking
but whereas the magpie is all chest and legs
the wagtail is a tail-ticker who insinuates an occasional curlicue of flight

I wonder what the magpie has done to achieve ex-communication
it would be more usual to find his kind living as part of a thuggish band
of delinquent warblers marauding over claimed territory
I wonder too about his association with the scallywag-tail
the grim beaker and the clown

I suppose even a solitary misfit is entitled to a mate

© Frank Prem, 2002

towards kansas

Poem #23 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

he has listened to the story
of a wonderful life
a tragic affair

watched her eyes
welling tears that brimmed
but never broke
as she herself has not been been broken
though close
so very close

dorothy in a whirlwind
turning and contorting still
searching desperately for a way
to click heels together
while riding riding
and feeling every whipping lick
the twisted beast can lash at her

let there be a landing
but don’t make it too fast
just make it be there
in reach
when the moment comes

as she spoke
he could hear the elemental roar
feel it
touched by chill tremors
while swept along
in a small part of the journey
with her

and now it is done
she has told the tale
and gone
to face the next storm
already bellowing its presence
in her mind

the house is quiet again
the world outside the same as it was
the same as it always is

night has fallen
and he so restless


© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #24: a whole hour

unravelling the code

the genie’s lamp

she muttered to herself
as though she had found
what she expected

what is it

she glanced at me

that you wish for?

turning back to her work

a bowl

it is filled with fruit

more bounty?


she grasped my hand

at a pattern in the markings
at the bottom of the square
that only she
could identify


she said

a horse

higher up in the square


is the rider

is it a fall?
a separation?

what of the gun?

she threw my hand down
while she mumbled
half under her breath

then turned
looked up at me directly


it is you
I see your face

the die is cast

touch your finger
on the shadow

the code
will take you
to where you need
to be

she held a thin
deeply lined palm
face up
towards me

waiting for it to be blessed
in silver

© Frank Prem, 2017

Hammered Gold and Gilded Tin

It is a grail of sorts, the quest
for possession of a small
but precious and growing thing,
the evolution of a child.

The taste of truth is crafted
in a cup of beaten gold,
shaped plain and unadorned
of false or burnished pride.

The cup of venality
lies coated in thin enamel.
Gilded stuff, poor of substance.
Pretty, gleaming, shallow.

Which will nourish
the thirsty young?
From which a sip
for the future?
Hammered gold or yellow gilt?
Elixir or sugared syrup?

© Frank Prem, 2001

between two words

between two words
that rhyme
lies the metaphor

like the magpie
and its song

like a round of firewood
and the blade
of my axe

the image
in its personal melody

the ballad moves me
to the high country
when I close
my eyes

I sing the mountains
the valleys

my story

so tell it
like a tale
in a song revealed
in the in-between
place and time
of two small words
that rhyme

© Frank Prem, 2017

katy’s scrubbing up

Poem #22 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

mama’s checking out the make-up
rummaging for things she hasn’t seen since
let’s say
they’ve been missing awhile
but she thinks she might know where to find them
they’ll be in katy’s room

katy’s scrubbing up tonight
glitter in her hair
she’s had the beauty parlour treatment
to look gorgeous
for the ball

cha cha cha

for dancing

fourteen years and six feet tall
slender as a model on the cat-walk
she’ll be black off the shoulder
pink in a shawl
a little colour on the cheeks
dark eye-liner
and yes
that’ll be the missing mascara

and the lipstick

those two will be gone awhile
it’s time for girl business
in the bedroom
but papa
have you charged the camera

because here she comes now
look at her would you
just look
we always knew
just look at her

strike a pose by the mantle shelf
underneath the painting we brought away
from grandma’s house
she might not approve of black
but she’d be just so proud of you
and happy

little brother please
remove yourself
this is not your picture
or your time
you’ll have to wait your turn

papa take katy now
it’s time she made her entrance

you won’t need to carry
the shotgun

she’ll be fine you know
she’s a big girl
still your baby
but she’ll be fine

he’ll be worried all night
fretting like a

like the father whose baby
is taking steps into the world
and away


keep him busy if you can
talk motor cars
help him do something with the radiator
or the carby
until one o’clock
or so

until she gets home

© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #23: towards kansas