turn my coffee

if I want
my coffee to love me

if I want
my coffee to hold me

my coffee to please me
to make my life be easy
I’ve got to
turn my coffee on


I don’t want
my coffee bitter, Joe

I don’t want
my coffee too black no (oh no no)

my coffee macchiato
make sure I start so
I’ve got to
turn my coffee on


I don’t want to be latte (hey hey)
I don’t like any milk fern
in my froth

I want my coffee to pick me up
so I’m going to have to
turn my coffee

I’ll turn

(so strong!)

© Frank Prem, 2017

April 2017 Poem #25: why is the magpie

his name

you cannot know

he said

the weather

you live in houses
huddled in a row for safety
in concrete
on tarmac

you are in shock
when a wet hand
of water
of rain reaches down
and slaps you
as though
you do not matter

I know the storm

he said

I know his name
I watch him grow
his temper swell

I see him

the old man mused

as he approaches closer
crying out
that he has come
for me

I am alone
my shack is small
and it is filled with holes
through which he sends
his early breezes

I name him Tempest
that makes him howl
no-one should know him
for what he is

but it was whispered
in his song
on a day
when he took my home
and the world

I name him
to make him shriek aloud
and cry

he named me
blew me down
then he whistled himself

I know the storm

huddle closer
it may be yet
you could
be safe

© Frank Prem, 2016


before you grind your beans up
first you’ve got to roast them
if you want to turn them brown
you need a flame

put a match under your fire
then put your pan upon it
listen to those green beans
crack and strain

spin the browning beans around
turn and twist and twirl them
make them smoky dark
but never burned

then tip them in the strainer
before you rush them through the air
do it mighty quick
the way you’ve learned

now you’ll find your Arabica
is ready for the grinding
into a powder with the power
of dynamite

and if you want to drink espresso
make it grumble on the stove
the best espresso is an attitude
and cranky
kick your head
is what I’ve brewed

© Frank Prem, 2014

a-wooing for coffee

Yellow Bourbon E-
Ethiopia Yirgacheffe
as well

their green beans turn
to brown
in the oily smoke
with a cra-cra-
crackling sound

over the stove-top
it’s Espresso
that gets me

here’s a batch
of beans
green-to-brown them
turn the heat


grind them
start the day right
the bubbling growl

give me give me give me
don’t make
a grown man …

a-a-a      a-wooooo

a-a      a-wooooo

don’t make a grown man

a-wooooo woo-woo-woo

for my


© Frank Prem, 2017

Poem #13: thwocking turbulence

pink throb latte

the noise never quite succeeds here
in fading to background white
it is shaded by the pink and throb of night club
not the mannered brown
of café

this is Chadstone
two hundred and thirty two retail outlets*
and a myriad hustling bodies
almost blinding in a random agitation of movement
it is here I have come
for a daily paper-and-coffee indulgence
dependent for success
on a dominance of the white over the pink

the food-court is in session
broad enough for perspective to play a role
in shrinking size if not numbers
as the eye scans to the distant edge
of the twitching tables that lie
between my bubble of hubbub
and the perimeter markings of
Indian take-away (roti wrap curries)
gourmet carvery
steakhouse grill and home-made ice-creamery

the mass at rest before me crawls
seething in an incessant irritation
seated or upright
afoot or undulating in the dis-coordinated breeze
that drives this shop-town community
each table grouping a micro-climate of independence
working for the common purpose
of a retail hive
humming pallid
against the throb-pink
of latte and morning papers
that never quite recedes to background white

© Frank Prem, 2002

  • Now Five hundred and thirty, I believe. Bigger is better.

a coffee song

A Poem a Day in October 2016: #20

it’s time to play
the coffee song
grind it right up
put it on
stove radio

it has a quiet start
I’d hardly even know it was there
but the element is glowing
so something’s going on
down below

and in the distance
far away
like the growl of thunder
the sound of pressure
building in a confined space
lodges in the front of my brain

I start to bop
without my own volition
while I watch the milk
rise up to the boil

it’s less a sound
more a feeling
as the steam percolates
and the beans express themselves
through water

to rise again
as a different being
with a rumble and a roar
like the diesel of a coffee train
crashing around the kitchen

screams out to me

come and pour

right now
right now
right now

this is a coffee song

I sing it out loud
coffee morning

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #21: ride the portent

the beginning of life

A Poem a Day in September #22

go away
don’t talk to me
I am really alive

don’t trouble me
till I wake

go away
grind coffee beans
on top of the stove

I’ll open my eyes when I hear
the hissing
and the bubbling

if you want to be the hero
my hero
you better brew them hard

and make it strong
to stir my bones

come talk with me
feel that I am at-em
truly I
am at-em again

coffee is the start of the world

coffee hiss me into life
on the stove

coffee is the way to my soul

now I

I feel truly
I am alive

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #23: finding north

coffee café before late shift

A Poem a Day in September #17

coffee café
I’ve done lunch
I’m just killing time
until my shift starts

big flat white
how strong is that
I have to stay wide awake for …

an old party of five
is all smiling choppers
slick silver hair
and a perm
a rouge and an oversize handbag
so slow
picking paths through the tables
just in case of a …

it’s never too early in a day
or a life
to introduce kids to a fluff baby-cino
a small boy has rehearsed
time and time again
the way to best wear a milk moustache
his small sister though has a better cream curl
and mum and dad are just so pleased they could …

yes and sometimes
you just want it all
but in a world of mod-cons you can’t take it
because there’s the chirp of the phone
and a selfie to pose
no time to get your spoon
into a hummingbird slice
with such a generous dollop of …

coffee café
I’m just killing time
till my shift is ready
to receive me again but until that hour

there’s a man placing an order
he’s Macedonia or Greece
wants a take away that’s going to
stand his hair up …

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #18: I think a feeling (in words)

bowing before (my) royalty

A Poem a Day in September #9

I bow before the mailman
I bow down before the mail
there’s something of a reverence
or just respect
for what he’s got

it could be a packaged sceptre
maybe a signet
or a crown
that bids me bow low
just a low as I possibly can

you may say

eleven cents
what’s the fuss

or accuse me

you’re overplaying
this is really 
not that much

but I bow low
before the mailman
(my) royalty

© Frank Prem, 2016

Poem #10: goodnight, my western sky

I’m quite chuffed at the moment, you see our mailman brought a letter today that was, in essence, my first royalty cheque. For a grand total of $0.11 cents, and I felt that was worth memorialising in a poem.

Some while ago, Leanne Murphy and I collaborated on a little song that ended up being included on a Community Music Victoria CD and songbook – Sing It -, and has since been taken up here and there by various community music groups, which is a huge delight in its own right.

One community group’s effort with the song (done mainly with brass instruments, I think) is described here, and makes a quite interesting read. I think there is a YouTube upload of the group performing the track there as well.

Anyway, today I received a Royalty, and I’m still laughing over it.



Whirley-gigging the coffee

I’ve always been a drinker of pretty scungy coffee. As a young man newly in the workforce, I first became accustomed to drinking powdery institution coffee that we jokingly called ‘the sweepings off the floor’. It was warm and it was wet and it was free, and I didn’t know much better at the time. To this day in my working life I will carry a polystyrene cup filled with ‘sweepings’ around with me without complaint.

My taste in coffee for consumption at home has always been marginally more sophisticated than that of the work situation. In the confines of my personal coffee palace, I graduated up the café chain to drinking a solution of granules, preferably of a dark colour. Classy, that!

And when out and about, café latte at the conclusion of lunch, perhaps a cappuccino or a flat white … de rigueur on all outings of a social nature.

But then, a bit over a decade so ago, things began to change. My new girlfriend at the time (now my wife, Leanne) had a touch of the fanatic about her pursuit of the finer things in life, and introduced me to the pleasures of the stove-top brew early in our relationship, and coffee began to assume a weighty depth that involved the senses – taste and aroma – to be sure, but overridingly took on the qualities of a deep ritual that held a spiritual undertone.

Beans by the kilo bag. Dark roasted for espresso. Eight teaspoons of beans into the grinder we rescued from my grandmother’s house after she died. The heaven-scented powder that resulted spooned into a stove-top coffee maker for steam to be forced through the powdered beans then reconstituted by a mesmeric bubbling hissing boiling process into the rich brown liquid that filled our kitchen with that unmistakable aroma.

Topped with boiled full-cream milk. Ah, joy!

This journey involved harnessing the mundane in support of the miraculous. Where, for example, could I find a replacement rubber seal for the hardened and now mangy one we’d had since time began, or a new sieve basket for a stove-top coffee machine? We replaced two machines before we found our answer on the internet.

For a fellow who started out happy to make do with powdered dregs, the journey towards coffee-snobbishness was a rapid one. In no time at all, supermarket-bought roast beans had attracted a dubious suspicion. How good were they? How long since they were roasted? Where did they come from? Were they really Arabica, or was the label fudging the truth? And, were they ethical?

Again, the internet acted as a great enabler. For a modest bid price, freshly roasted beans, from the chosen country of origin could be delivered to our door, with a modest ethical contribution added to each purchase price. Ahh, just taste the difference! How good were we?!

And how satisfying this ritual had become.

But, still, there was further to travel on this journey. We were interested in trying to become independent of processed food and excessive packaging as much as possible. We enjoy resurrecting and preserving old traditions and incorporating them into our daily lives, and there was another step back into the past involving coffee making that teased us both, on the periphery of being do-able … and that was the creation of coffee from a handful of green beans by roasting them ourselves, complete with a roasting diary and of course, the requisite blog and photos. Seriously tempting … but how?

My research turned up a marvellous little beginners guide to the world of coffee and home roasting titled Home Coffee Roasting – Romance and Revival by Kenneth Davids (St Martins Griffin, New York, 1996). It’s a wonderful introduction to the rich history and development of the coffee trade, regions, types and styles, and specifically instructs on the requirements and processes involved in roasting coffee at home.

Only halfway through the book and I was eagerly saddling up for this new journey. I wanted the romance that he described, where the old men and women in Italian villages sat out on their balconies twice a week to roast a couple of days worth of coffee at a time.  I wanted the civility of the coffee ceremony where respect was shown by the trouble taken to prepare the coffee with the guest in attendance, as witness. I wanted to become the master of a simple art that no-one in my circle of acquaintance had imagined, let alone performed.

Some of the equipment seemed a little preposterous. Whereas the pictures in the book were of various stove top and barrel style coffee bean roasters, what Davids recommended was a pop-corn maker with a crank handle. Something that I’d never encountered in Australia, let alone in common use. Nonetheless, a ‘Whirley’ stove-top pop-corn maker was soon ordered, all the way from America. (My whims know no geographic boundaries). Also, a candy thermometer, and a two kilogram starter batch of green beans from four distinct coffee regions of the world.

Total cost of this initial equipment (including the book that served as my bible) came to $A98.14. A bargain at the price, in my opinion.

Then, the first morning all the equipment was gathered in one place, the final stages of the adventure took place. As soon as the thermometer arrived, we drilled a hole in the top of the Whirley-gig for it to sit in and began the process. The basic steps we followed are as follows- the beans we used were 100gm of Ethiopian Gambella Sundried beans for the first batch:

  1. Stir (or more correctly, twirl) the beans steadily throughout (doesn’t have to be non-stop, but has to be constant to get an even roast).
  2. Watch for smoke to rise, listen for the beans to ‘crack’. This step took no more than two minutes to be reached.
  3. Start taking peeks at the beans every thirty seconds to a minute to check their colour. What we were aiming for initially was a colour that matched or was a little lighter than the beans we had previously bought from the supermarket  for our morning brew.
  4. Take the beans off the heat when the colour is a tiny bit lighter than what you want to achieve. This is because the beans will keep roasting for awhile from accumulated heat.
  5. Rapidly cool the beans by passing from colander to colander to let air get at them. This is best done outside as there is a husk still attached to the green beans that separates during the roast and this will blow away with a gentle breeze.
  6. Ten minutes after beginning, the roast was ready to come off the stove.

What we found we were left with was a deeply rich brown bean that was significantly oily on the surface. The colour was slightly darker than we were aiming for, but just looked gorgeous, conjuring archetypal images of a sun-drenched Africa. The beans lost about twenty-five percent of their weight during the roast, due to the green beans being loaded up with moisture. Much of the smoke that is produced during the roast is this moisture evaporating from the bean. The roasted beans are also significantly larger than the green beans, due to swelling.

The experts suggest that beans are at their best for drinking between four and perhaps twenty-four hours after the roasting. They slowly but relentlessly lose aspects of their flavour from that point on as oxygen starts to have a deteriorating effect on the beans.

There was no way, however, that we were going to wait for hours or days before trying out what we’d created. We were up for a grind immediately. What we found was a coffee rich in aroma, though not as overpowering as I’d been half-expecting. The taste was more bitter on the tongue than we were accustomed to but a nice strong brew to drink. There is a lingering tingle of coffee aftertaste in my mouth as I write, some hours after the cup was consumed.

We sampled the roast after twenty-four hours of ageing to compare, then after another two days, we roasted a second batch, aiming for a lighter coloured bean. Three days after that, we tried a different region of the world. We had begun an exciting new journey into the romantic revival of home coffee bean roasting, and that journey hasn’t stopped to this day, when a double batch was roasted, before lunch, out on the back veranda.

© Frank Prem, 2016

At Koko Black – a coffee poem (with chocolate!)