Thinking About Hands

I think about hands a lot
mine are soft and have a great capacity
for delicacy I’m told
in some ways it may be true
that I see aspects of the world through touch
through fingertips with eyes closed
so much can be revealed
a tasting of textures and response to pressure
rough and smooth               hot and cold
wet and dry               soft and hard
making intimacy a living thing that is physically real
while shaping mental images and sensations
that become response triggers and pathways
to satisfaction and realisation

I think about hands a lot
with horror at the creeping disturbance of skin
by recurrence of watery pustules rising like bubbling mud
over two days to burst and form dead slough patches
painful and bleeding cracked ugliness
unfit either to touch or be touched
a kind of pre-leprosy unclean               unclean
spreading from digit to digit
causing shy unwillingness to explore or to feel
the textureless shame of a sickness of the extremities
hidden only by skillful furtiveness

I have been thinking
about the small finger of my right hand
those small watery pustules are there              rising
some skin has been shed and a painful crack
has opened up along the line of the first joint

in my kitchen I have a sharpened knife
I have been thinking about it lately
a lot

© Frank Prem,  2001

marine dream

the creature thrashed
a seal

or a dolphin

thrashed again

raised a spray
that stopped him
in his tracks
to close his eyes

opened to a new scene

a line of guardian penguins
waddle-ambling formally
around the guard-line
of a dream

he closed his eyes

do not fear

a voice

a thrum

a resonation

you are the whale

I am
inside you

you swallow mw
and swallow me

I am

thrashing before you
a creature
foolish without
my element

and you
my old

will you dive now

thrust yourself
into the waters

the march
of swimming penguins
waiting the tables
on the perimeter

from their menu

this is your dream

am inside you

© Frank Prem, 2017

July 2017 Poem #35: tba

love of the sun

Poem #16 from: A Lizard Life

Back to A Lizard Life – Introduction

the lizard raised
his head from the ground
to reach toward the sky
and the sun


so sweet
was the warm pouring down
he wished he could take it below

for the den where he lives
at the end of the drain
is cosy but so empty
in darkness

he wished he could hold
the sun within his claw
to carry as his beacon

oh sun

he cried

I am in love with your light
I long
to lie down
in your warm

come with me
let me show you my den
let us banish the dark with your light
with you I’ll be charmed
and your warm will be
my balm

come with me
down below
come with me down

the sun will not
entertain a lizard’s court
though it is a flattering thing
to be adored

a single beam
for the lizard lover
is all the sun
would give forth

caught it within a claw
and he took it to his home

now he sleeps
through the night
and he is warm

the skink who loved the sun
sleeps warm

© Frank Prem 2017

A Lizard Life Poem #17: tba

an uncertainty in silver

I grow old now
in the ways that a man must grow old
the aching of the spine
the weakening of the eyes
and the slow down
that happens in the morning
and happens again in the night

it is harder to stand up as tall as I was
once upon my prime as a youth
who’d have thought this could happen
to a man with the world to set right
and a million and one tasks to do
before tea every day

between one rub of the eyes
and the next
there were glasses to read with
and slightly less hair
though slightly more silver
an encroaching bewilderment
at the young of today
and a certain sure knowledge
that the world is too strange
to endure

© Frank Prem, 2014


he knew the way
that the stone would fall
how far
how high
the trajectory
from the moment
he fore-saw it

he knew the sound
the note would make
the tone
the volume
the feeling of
from the first brush
of his finger
against the string
when he fore-heard it

and in an instant
he made the future
stretch itself out
before him

a time of vision
and of sound
before they happened

in a moment he could enter

for just
a second

© Frank Prem, 2017

July 2017 Poem #34: marine dream


Poem #15 from: A Lizard Life

Back to A Lizard Life – Introduction

what is it

how would a lizard know


from under the paving stone
where so many slither
to cling
and to die

a shell

the process of extraction
grip without fracture
requires gentle firmness
and dexterity

a slow saurian waddle
across grass
and concrete

avoidance of the lightning movement
of a car coming to halt
in the carport

then a subtle twitch
and pivot
to enter the grating
into the storm-water pipe

back in the deeper darkness again
it is a delicate process
to raise above the earlier arrangements
and place this trophy
number twenty-eight
at the apex of the triangle
backed against the canyon wall
of the drain


a lizard cannot know
but there is a symmetry
a comforting air and feeling

encouragement enough
to start another

© Frank Prem 2017

A Lizard Life Poem #16: love of the sun

A Bit of Sweet Old Fashioned

there’s a little bit of sweet old-fashioned coming on
and I am bracing to lead the way and be the one
to say the words we need to hear out loud
it’s my turn
and I’m ready

in the traditional way I can gather up the numbers
brought together for a moment of salute and toast
and the babble of good natured joy and heart deep wishes
they’re all willing
and they’re ready

I could make a speech out of the many things
words of praise and wish you well and love you but
I don’t really think that’s right and might lead to fear
of too much said
if he’s not ready

I know it’s not old-fashioned and it doesn’t satisfy
but it might be better if I whisper things I need to say
in a corner with a quiet word and tearful hug before I ask you
to raise your glasses
when you’re ready

© Frank Prem, 2001

Published under the title ‘Toast’ in Manifold Magazine #38 (UK) May 2001

the hunt for the wild arancini

the wild arancini
across the driving range

the Golf Club chef
so close behind him
holds his implements
up high

his cook’s knife

the roasting fork

a sharpening steel
held to his wrist
by a shortened length
of cord

the apron flies
around his knees

his moustache
holds beaded sweat
while his jowls
are in full motion
and broad wobble

but he runs
full stretch
as a lion

the prey
leaps and bounds
more like
a gazelle

across the 10th
over the light undulations
of a two shot
to fairway
from tee

out of a rough lie
the chef emerges suddenly
but the arancini is

the chef seeks
only a small cut

a smallest cut
the Club President
will dine today
with guests

the gallop
a sustained chasse
of the arancini

will brook no trade

no portion mutilated
be it large
or small

he will remain uncut
until the pennant

the chef sits
across the 11th green

the only ball available
in the cup

mere batter
poor rice and filling
will have to serve
for this entrée

there is a bray
from the woods
that run alongside
the 14th

the arancini
a-prance with the strut
of freedom
now stops to graze

no backward glance
no moment
so wasted

the magnificent aperitif
almost vanishing
the back nine

© Frank Prem, 2017

July 2017 Poem #33: forever

a way to fly

Poem #14 from: A Lizard Life

Back to A Lizard Life – Introduction

on the third day of gazing
from the grate
up into the sky
he saw the birds again

he whispered to a spider


with the web
he spun and wove
gossamer all around him

the magpie left a gift
of black and white
that he ought to include


he scrambled to the height
of a verandah post
clutched the cloth
one corner
for the claws of all four feet

when the breeze rose up
when the sun shone warm
and when the blue that was the sky
made a picture

when he drew his breath
when he’d calmed his thoughts
and when he’d flung himself
to the mercy of air

then he fell for a while
then the ground rose close
and then the grasses luffed close
underneath him

until the lizard flew

until the lizard soared

until the swirl of a rising current
sustained him

then he turned in air
and looped through a loop
and the lizard rose as high
as the birds

© Frank Prem 2017

A Lizard Life Poem #15: shrine

wall of roses

do you remember last year
overgrown and over-tangled?
I cut them back to wood
to give them strength and shape
watched for first signs to see
if I had been too harsh
and then they grew

I told you of the first buds
that promised well for summer
one fell away and died
but five have opened up
pale and pink and twice the size
of anything we saw last year
they moved me in a way
I hadn’t planned

I spend a moment every evening
watching as the light fades
I don’t know what I hope to see
don’t understand what draws me
but I want these baby roses
to burst open in new flowers
on the wall          a mass of waving colour
fragrant and enchanted
should you pass them

© Frank Prem, 2001