white liars

sulphur-crested cockatoo: cacatua galerita

white liars
are gathering overhead
to shout their stories

white liars
are so crooked
they can’t fly straight

a zig and a zag
beneath the open sky
is the fastest way
to get between two points

if you’ve got a story
fit to tell
don’t keep it to yourself
we want to hear it
just hang down from a branch
and squawk it out

and if you’ve seen
some funny thing
don’t giggle in tiny titters
screech it aloud and scream
turn summersaults
and bob your head about

white liars
are telling stories
to impress a foolish mate

white liars
when their crests sit up
are recounting yarns

white liars
does polly want a cracker

and will you dance
will you dance

© Frank Prem, 2012


from inside the outhouse

Poem #10 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction

the door is basic timber
a Z frame
facing the inside
and a gap
at both top and bottom

the circulation of air
is important
in such a place

the room is small
with a tin roof
a one-seater
particularly suitable
as long-term residence
for both
spiders and flies

the hole of the seat is large
shiny-smooth at the edges
from friction of skin
over the course of years

wide enough
and slippery enough
to swallow a small boy
unless he is carefully perched
on the front edge
as he drums his feet
against the box

on the wall
is an area
kept clear of cobwebs
by the frequent movement
of purposeful hands

newspaper squares
are skewered on a wire hook
for the perusal
of partial stories and advertisements
from the popular press
before consignment
to a more noble cause

the creeper screen in front
is strategically grown
for concealment
from the main building
its pungent blooms a potent foil
for certain unmentionable aspects

it serves too
as the nest site
for a pair of blackbirds
who seem able to overlook
the patent fact
that this is
a low-rent neighborhood

© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 11: nightman


the drafter

he draws words
like paint shaped on canvas

tiny brush strokes
of language

spun from flax
spun out of gold

an alphabet
hued in colour
like the leaf
green then yellow
to wine
then to earth

onto earth

into earth

there is a word
call it

a journey-tool
of lettered precision

he carves the mark
that is himself
into strokes
and curls
and dashes

until the peace
that is the falling of the sun
descends upon him
loudly in the evening

and he finds he doesn’t know
what was sentence
what was shading

he gifts it to you
the picture
with its brush-pattern words

to you
to seek the meaning
in the work
of a draft-shapen

© Frank Prem, 2017

May 2017 Poem #01: so handsome (what a guy)



picnic story

Poem #9 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction

papa said

mama come on
we’ve got to get away
come on I want to
get away

mama pack
the picnic set
let’s all
get away
mama I’m taking you away

hurry little children
we’re almost
at the getaway
come on little children
today we’ll get away


around the base of mount buffalo
between myrtleford and porepunkah
on the low green flats of king river
snuggled under the purple
of the un-cleared slopes of the mountain
the business was mostly tobacco
from seedlings in hop gardens
to planting growing picking
and finally airing in rows of kilns
before packing leaf to market

a picnic visit to friends there
needed a whole weekend and three families
starting before one dawn and ending
not long before the next

the slaughtered pig was transported by the men
to an old bathtub for cleaning
in scalding hot water that made the flesh stink
and seared the skin for close shaving
with a deftly wielded cutthroat razor
honed for the job on an old leather strop
that reminded me over-much of school

offal for sausages and exotic concoctions
was cooked in a squat laundry copper
heated by a small fire tended with loving care
to the right temperature by my father
who would often tell me

the only thing we waste from a pig
is the squeal

skewered on a wooden spit
the porker was stitched
with a belly full of apples and onions
before suspension above glowing coals
to slow-roast

the women were responsible for cooking
for preparing sausages
and keeping up the food supply
the men were responsible for the pig
and for closely supervising the women
while consuming the pungent treasure
of liquid-fire rakiya
yielded by specially grown
and lushly productive white plums
intended for a higher purpose
than simply being eaten

it was the particular job of my opa
while he was sober enough
to sit at one end in the warm of the fire
and to turn the pig for hours over the coals
at just the right speed with the apples and onions
tumbling hollowly in a settled rhythm

sometimes when it rained
the job was only made tolerable
by the constant replenishment
of his rakiya supplies
to maintain internal warmth

on those occasions another man
would take over much earlier from opa
as was only right on a wet day

my own special job
was to keep well out of the way
by going with a friend into the low hills
with shotgun and rifle in hand
to frighten rabbits and snakes
until early evening brought us back
with the enticement of fresh roasted pork
beckoning on the breeze

then singing dancing and mysterious card games
were played under lights that banished shadows
from the row of tobacco kilns
until the women put the children to bed
and the men could no longer stand


papa said

mama come on
I want to dance with you
hey mama come and dance
it’s good to get away

© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 10: from inside the outhouse


loss of faith

Poem #8 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction

it is the women of my family
who are the keepers of faith
every sunday
and sometimes in the week
either early or late
in dresses that are restrained but fine
and with a shawl rather than a hat
to cover the head

our women wear no hats
but they pray
for the men and for the children
the passing over of our sins
and for those they left behind
in search of a better life
for their young

it is the women
who round up the men and the boys
to ensure attendance
at the small cathedral in the town
on the important days
for ritual expressions of faith

but when the letter for my mother came
in black-lined airmail
from the village of her parents
she wept with the bitterness
of injustice and loss and grief
she cried for so long
I was afraid
she may never stop

god lost a believer
and I no longer needed
to make an appearance
at the sunday mass

© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 9: picnic story

what is, if it won’t

what is time
if it will not last
for me

what a waste
in the end
If I can’t hold it

what is time
to me
if it is so

if I take a moment
only to find
it is gone

what is time
without a little body

it is a spectre
that holds everything

that I am was

everything that I was

what is time
how long do I have
to tell you

all that I know
about time
is already gone

© Frank Prem, 2017

April 2017 Poem #31: end of the world (until tomorrow)

Mizzle Down

the clouds have broken, mizzle down
soft on my hand, a tattoo fall
from the sky, to touch me cold
in an erratic beat
for as long as I can stand the chill
and the bite of a wind that doesn’t care
if I am standing here
around me is an easy path

for the indifferent breeze
is wrapping droplets all about me
like a blanket of mizzle down
as the grey descends
to cover morning, I must go
away, inside a day of electric lights
heating and sad glances through window panes

feeling mizzle down

© Frank Prem, 2001

you know mums cooking?

Poem #7 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction

you know how sometimes your mum
can be really over-the-top
with cooking traditional food in the way
that she learned to do it back home
and most of the time it’s sort of okay
or you don’t really notice because
it’s just there all the time
and sometimes it’s really good
and you can feel clever about it
because the other kids’ mums
don’t know how to cook that good stuff
but sometimes it’s that rotten spicy mince
wrapped up in cabbage leaves or
stuffed into capsicum and drowned
in some kind of red stewy sauce

you know sarma and sattarash

well I hate ‘em

© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 8: loss of faith

a good structure

you can tell a healthy tree
by looking at its roots

see here
this tree
has a good central structure
a strong branching
of main roots

each root is springy
with contained energy

a dense fibrous mat
for absorbing moisture
and nutrients

and the shape
is that classic widening
and then taper
as it reaches out
into the stuff around it


see how broad
an area is covered

this is a healthy tree


how about if you get the shovel
and we dig down a bit
among the leaves
and the branches

shift some dirt

and uncover
a few fresh apples

© Frank Prem, 2016