on the milky sea

there is a tiny speck of boat
on the calm of a milky sea
that I am warming
to make my coffee

and as the currents start to move
beneath the surface
the little boat up-anchors
and commences to sail

around froth-and-bubble islands
that come and go in unexpected bursts
of white writhing ire
that rises from below

the pleasure cruise is troubled
as waves pitch and toss
up and down and up again
there is strife now brewing overboard

and the seas will rise
as milk seas must
when the fires below
blaze too brightly

I must play the hero

to the rescue is my appointed part
so it’s off the heat
and up the jug
then into the cup I pour

the boat is lost
the resolution was perhaps
too drastic

it may be that I swallowed it
perhaps it was merely downed
but either way no good came
for that speck of boat
a-sail on the milky sea

© Frank Prem, 2011

mcalpine’s cherries

Poem #36 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction


in the weeks of heat and holidays
the cherry-lined branches
are burdened deep purple
or black or red
with the promised succulence
revealed through the light loam dust
raised by a shower of passing rain

the trees stand
in leafy straight lines
over and around the hillside
categorised by variety
and the timing of their readiness
set wide enough apart
for the tractor to deposit and collect
bins of the picked fruit
taken singly or in joined clusters
of twins and triplets
that may straddle a teenage ear
in a moment of unproductive decoration

the gun pickers
fill their buckets in what seems
like just a moment
up and down the ladders
to strip a tree
and move to the next
in the time it takes
to have a good look around
and a sip of tea
from the thermos

my paltry efforts might be improved
if I wasn’t afraid of ladders
since the apples of last season
flung me to the ground

and perhaps I’d last longer
before getting sacked
if my friend and I
weren’t fighting
cherry-dodging battles with juicy missiles

flying between adjoining rows
to the irritation of the boss
old mac mcalpine
during his daily inspections
of the adequacy and progress
being made by the casual labour

his free advice to novice pickers
resounds with a wealth of acquired
orchardist wisdom and kindliness
when he tells us in a burred brogue

if you’re going to eat ‘em
eat the bir-r-r-r-d pecked ones
they’r-r-e the sweetest

good advice
but after three days
I never wish to see or to touch
one of those red devils again

© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 37: tba


my empty thought
is a void
of mind

an instant drained
for the duration

oh bliss

a moment
of not
at all

a moment
just one moment
of emptiness endured

and in the next
I can think
with joy
of nothing

© Frank Prem, 2017

May 2017 Poem #29: tba


the days are taken up
almost absent-mindedly
with tasks of work and with idle hours
papers to read
lunch to be consumed

evenings are a greater challenge
little to do
but endure the bright flicker
and booming sound
of the television
the moment of going to bed delayed
a little too long
almost as though it threatens
though this is not so
for the bed is a comfort
and the warmth of blanket and doona
are both an embrace and a relaxation

crime fiction postpones sleep
in a persistent pattern of long standing
for which there is no good reason
beyond occupation of time until weariness
and the light goes out

there are no fears in the darkness
no ghosts to confront
when the yellow bulb is extinguished
sleep will come easily enough

it is only with the movement
towards the bedside
and the switch on the far wall
to allow the day finally to end
that I hear myself say goodnight out loud
to an empty space
and feel a moment of bewilderment
before touching the switch

good night

© Frank Prem, 2002

falling leaves (for Susie)

Sue leaves 1

the leaves are coming down
for Susie
she will not rake them up

they fall in colours


and rosy red

covering the green
with shades of warm

a pillow for her head
a blanket for her bed
we’ll heap them high for her

Susie raked them
year on year
but now
that time has passed
as fleeting as Autumn days
that lead to Winter

and she
won’t rake them
though they still tumble
through the air

the leaves
coming down
for Susie

Sue leaves 2

© Frank Prem, 2017

May 2017 Poem #28: nothing

Creation Study

he is positioned to catch good light
on his back with one leg held straight
the other bent upwards

the temperature is a little less than warm
and the hairs of his legs and arms and stomach
have stiffened slightly
as an easel
brushes and colours are readied

he is quite still
with eyes seeming focused
towards a far corner of the ceiling
or beyond

but in truth the gaze ends
only a short distance into the air before him
at a place where he has conjured
a lined page from inside his mind
and an image of his hand holding a pen
in the act of writing verse
about an artist and her model

although still
but cannot think perfectly in this medium
an error needs erasure
by a hand raised and finger pointed
to stroke mistake away

the impression caught on canvas
is a study of stillness
in the act of correcting creation

© Frank Prem, 2001


Poem #34 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction

tension builds
from sunday

through a week
of minor huddles
that materialise
and dissipate
on street corners

and where the local lads
the ones with wheels
and those merely
in attendance
half-form tactical groups
for a moment

to plot
make arrangements
for the coming friday

anticipation melds
with the planning
of ways to set the scene
for the great
with the smart-arse fools
from the other town
who have no right
to claim ascendancy

self-respect screams
for vengeance

next friday


there are thirty
or more
around the two
at the side of the street
in the granite gutter

chosen site
for the confrontation

knuckles and knees
punctuated by
the soft dull thud
of a metal pipe
striking home

among raw grunts
and muffled kicking
the stranger is downed
according to plan

the esteem
of the town
undergoes a restoration
with each connecting strike

the sound of the blows
in the eerie near-silence
is a pulse beat that reaches
to touch the young witness
running for home
with his eyes fixed
wide open

© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 35: hating whitey

of the unknown

I thought I heard
a creeping sound

I thought I heard

it made me stop
to gaze about me

I caught a glimpse
a brief suggestion
of movement

and when I looked
oh my oh dear
the shadow


who was that
shading my doorstep
why has he come
to haunt me

did I do wrong
what does he want
is the specter encroaching

forgive me please
I did not mean
to offend


what is this

no ghost at all
it is my young friend
the magpie


oh bliss
I feel so relieved
for a time I thought …
you know

I thought my time was done
but it was just the magpie
and not the lord
of the dark unknown

© Frank Prem, 2017

May 2017 Poem #26: returned to the sun