unfriended by the walls

it began when a door
required readjusting

down below
sticking to the floorboards

a physical thing
for intervention
or perhaps
a carpenter to talk to

who understood

the windows’ problems
were more clearly

transparently neurotic
but still a form
of psychic discomfort

one by one
the foundation pieces
moved out
and then moved on

the outer walls
were tired
a vacation might refresh

a painting weekend
with a palette
of brighter shades

the kitchen
and the bedrooms
felt they could not bear
to hold up
when they’d been left
without support


fallen to the ground
and disheveled
unfriended and alone

the roof
is contemplating
entering a relationship
with a basement
that is little more
than a hole

© Frank Prem, 2017

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

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


do you think
about the clock
at night
as you lay down
to bed

do you think
that it is
through your time

when you close your eyes
you lose yourself
inside a minute

when you open them
at least
you still have breath

the hours of the night
go by
in darkness

the hours spent
not sleeping
are whole lives

wake you
wake you
wake yourself up rising

today light
might be all the time
that still remains

think about the clock
when you lay down
just before your sleeping

think about the clock
in your bed

© Frank Prem, 2017

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

the exuberance of my aunt

Poem #6 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction

my father’s sister is getting older
though it took a long time to happen
I can see it in her face now
signs of age and recent strain

all through my small days
she seemed young and full of life
with exuberance held on a leash
lest it escape and betray a lack
of due decorum before the family
or even worse
in front of perfect strangers

looking back now I have a sense
that all the women in the family
moved through life with restraint

perhaps it was a cultural thing

I think small children can see
right through grown-ups
there’s an instinct that operates
to let them know
when someone is hiding laughter
or when there is a genuine bite
awaiting the unwary
and I always felt that my aunt
was less dour than she implied

I can remember
when she married
in the town’s fire station

it looks a very small place now
but with the two engines parked outside
and the station decorated into a hall
with tables and white cloths and balloons
crowded with people making merry
on convenient good spirits
and children chasing scatters of coins
thrown by guests honouring old custom
the station was a splendidness

and there was my aunt in her wedding day glory
looking radiant
dancing a happy waltz
with every man
and with many of the women
and all of the children
each new partner pinning paper money
to her gown
as payment for the privilege

the folk music started
all bouncing piano accordions
and the rapid nimbleness of flying mandolins
rich voices and full harmonies

the dancing changed from waltz
to the darting feet
and swaying circles of the kolo
filling the hall with sound and movement
the crowd roaring songs
from both floor and table top
my aunt leading the joyous
overloud and rapid-fire chorus
of high-pitched squealing
that the women could do so well

yoh! yoh! yoh! yoh!

I’ve never forgotten my aunt
dancing and singing that night
the happy young bride laughing
with her exuberance for once
as I was falling asleep
in the corner of the fire station

© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 7: you know mums cooking?

what day is this

the day
is not long
my boredom
makes it longer

I with the this and the that
of my lot
I cannot bear
to bother

and time drags
on me

the day
is not short
my excitement
makes the minutes heighten

and before I know
hours have flown

the day
is a day
in my mood
I shape it

into more
into less
into nothing at all
into forever

this is my day
what will it be

© Frank Prem, 2017


through the morning
his agitation grew

he had done what he could
to distract himself

emptied the six-sided old bottle
left to sit
on the shelf
with a few brief
unrelated phrases
remnant within

he had swallowed those
in a single mouthful


he had pulped
liquefied to a purée
an old novel

decanted the black
from the grey
shaken it

still nothing

a dross
of undistinguished
and unmemorable ink
never used
to pen beauty
to tattoo a flower
in her colours
onto a page

a mere
a word salad
with no dressing

he needed
a fresh bottle
only ever used on poetry

he needed to ingest
his substance vitae

by mouth
intra venous
misted in a gas

he didn’t care

for the love of god
he needed to take in
a good poem


when they found him
he appeared normal

no jitters
or twitches

lucid in conversation

it was only

only his eyes
the irises
that looked odd

it was remembered
they had been the colour
of sky
but now
they were pale
as the shade
of thin

© Frank Prem, 2017