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


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

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

A Resemblance

in some ways that pigeon resembles me
a plump waddler easily startled

it pulls its head and stomach down
to a point just over and in front of its legs
before a launch into the air
accompanied by frantic flapping of wings
to ensure lift off

perhaps if I could centre my gravity
in just that way
I could launch into the same air


© Frank Prem, 2001

The Chocolate Bird

Have you ever seen the milk chocolate bird
by the bay in the Caramel Sea?
His feathers are smooth and cocoa-brown,
he is named Carlos Cadbury.

He gathers up flakes and mud-cake crumbs
to line the sides of his nestlé
and feeds four chicks on chocolate chips
from the cookies adrift on the bay.

He glides in mixed-fruit and nut currents
above the swirl of sugary gruel,
and searches the shoals for swift turkish delights
swimming in purple-gold schools.

When darkening rocky-road thunder clouds
threaten soft marshmallow rain,
the chocolate bird, with his sampler full,
leaves the fudge-whipped sea, to go home again.

© Frank Prem, 2000

Cresting Waves and White Foam

when you were young did you
ride on cresting waves
taking journeys atop the breakers?
power and majesty
flowing underneath your feet
did you stand up or did you bow
before the foam that swallows the weakness
of those who’ve fallen away
in the path of something higher
than they ever dreamed to fly or ride
with only a tiny link
to keep them hovering so proximal to peril?

I’m standing to my hips in cold
feeling the tug of something old and strong
dragging me to submerge
my thoughts in a swirl of tumbled chaos
but I don’t need to feel that way
I can stand and watch and I can walk away
any moment that I want release
I don’t think I’ll climb the mountain waves
I’ll stay a paddler in the shallows
never getting too deep
and never plunging over my head

incoming waves ride on top of the ebb
with fingers of foam surfing to the shore
I’ve watched them for hours
to see the way it’s done
but I have no insight into staying afloat
without a board or a raft or lifeguard
holding on
my place is in the shallows
watching daredevil riders
on cresting waves and white foam

© Frank Prem, 2000

nothing (from Mars)

from Mars
it could barely
be seen

it was
hardly visible
from the Moon

in atmosphere
it appeared a little wider
than the breadth
that is a hair

so what could there be
to fear


he stands here
on one bank
of the canyon
so far the other side

and so deep

he does not know
the bottom
cannot fathom well

but he knows
without true knowing
he knows it
just by feel

down there

down there is danger
and down there
is a breath

he can taste
the hot stench

he understands it
as an exhalation
something snorted by a …

he is beyond
his own imagination

he can’t really feel quite sure
what he knows
is need of courage
and to summon all
and more

when he has drawn it
to him
when he is as brave
as he can bear

into the maw
and rankness
into the pit
he will descend

© Frank Prem, 2017

for the (rockfall) record

all right fellas
so the sky fell in
and here we are a hundred miles
down underground

let’s assess the situation
there’s less of us to pull up
than they had in Chile

but we’re trapped deeper
and it might take longer
everything depends on how they weigh
the waiting

we’re a hundred yards lower
maybe two days more
allow for sickness and infirmity
and I think we’ve got a show

when they reach us
with a telephone
we’ll ask the officials to attend
our attempt on the Guinness book of cave-in records
we’ll set a record and get a book deal
while we’re waiting

who’s got a quirky story
does anyone have a famous friend
what brought you to the coal mines in the first place

was it for the romance
what do you dream of in the dark
let’s ask for media coaching
while the dragging hours pass

in the meantime just keep waiting
listen for a sound
that isn’t rock-falls raining
always closer

my friends
are you still here with me
somebody needs to speak
because all alone
and all enclosed by darkness
is like a kind of madness

let’s hold on for the record
one more hour
another day
surely someone’s coming down
to find us

hello boys
say hello to me

hello boys



© Frank Prem, 2010


they said
he had his head stuck
in the clouds

was only ever

they said that he was
and they laughed at him
just a little

it was funny
wasn’t it

he was always off away
inside a dream


he says
he was visited
by a dream
and he’s never been able
to shake it off

he speaks with a small
half a laugh
playing at the corners
of his mouth
and he sort of invites you
to smile along

share the joke

because it happens
to us all
don’t you think

wouldn’t you say


you can’t actually see it
a cloud

there’s no evident
hanging around
that you’re likely to walk into
or brush against

just a vacant stare
a sense
of his absence
while you’re speaking together
as though he’s not there
even though the conversation
goes on


a visit from a dream
has left him touched
changed into vague
what was once

no hope for him

a dreamer

dead loss
just a dreamer

head in the clouds
mind not
on the job

while he’s awake

by a dream

sleep on
you absent fool

© Frank Prem, 2016


it’s a big big note
explodes across the mutter
of audience
striking them
the so recognisable guitar
envelopes and quiets
speaks five notes

the keyboard
almost a whisper
against that powerful opening sound

then again
the guitar
those five notes
the audience is hushed

the spotlight focuses
on the guitar
not the man

five notes


it begins

© Frank Prem, 2003