a wailing companion

it is there again
still there

if he was feeling testy
he would describe it as a caterwauling
that will not stop
constant yowling

but today is ok
today it is companionable
a reassurance
that everything is at it should be
and the old wailer
is welcome to perform

nondescript sounds
vaguely musical
mosque in the morning
head space for minaret
something almost religious
in the rise and fall of the sounds

he prefers female music
but the voice
is strong masculine
verbalising in an unknown tongue
no choice in that
though he knows he can block it by work
by hard concentration
but even then
the song might thread the thoughts
while he is only half aware

some days he wants to scream
claw his face and head bloody
to be alone
just for some moments

today is ok
the singer helps to keep it tolerable
on a good day

© Frank Prem, 2002


romance ducks

the ducks are sheltering
ten beneath the tree
almost a huddle
but it’s too hot
to ruffle feathers down

two have located
on their own
in the shade of another tree
it seems a case
of romance beneath the noonday sun

and then they’re gone
the dog always favours
on the run
and all that’s left
is a dozen pairs of wings
tipped white behind

where they stood is empty
as though there was nothing ever there
who can say
if the ducks I saw were real

it’s a nothing moment
with no-one left to care
even the ducks
live in the present moment
under the reeds
on the lakes far side

ten in quiet peace
and two

I don’t know where they are

perhaps they’re in
a romantic moment

© Frank Prem, 2009

earth movements

she is invisible
somewhere below a horizon
of pillow against wall

not even the shape of breathing
moves a topography of blankets
ambiguously contoured to disguise
the shifting ridge that is my arm
buried beneath the covers

I can locate the beating heart and chart inspiration
by touch
form subterranean connections
between hand and skin
undertake trans-continental wandering
by fingertip
to raise tectonic friction

I see her now
perhaps the earth will move

© Frank Prem 2001

to skoll the milk

She said,

I won a skolling contest once,
when I was travelling overseas.
People placed bets on it.
I forget what I won,
but the last thing they expected
was for a young woman,
hardly more than a girl really,
to out-skoll the blokes.

It’s a skill I learned when I was small.
I used to sneak to the fridge at night
to drink milk, straight out of the bottle.
Did you do that too, when you were small?
you know how, if you suck the bottle too hard,
you get a mouthful and have to gulp,
while the suction catches your lips
then makes a pop, or a hiss,
when you break the seal?
My mother would hear me
and come out to lecture me, every time.

So I practiced
and learned.

You have to open your oesophagus to
let the milk slide down,
without forcing the reflex
that makes your throat constrict
in a swallow,
and without making a sound. Learn to breathe
while you’re doing it.
Don’t let the suction build.

I keep my throat open. I draw air
through my nose.

That’s the way
to get the milk down.

© Frank Prem 2002

everyday changing

every day I’m growing simpler
I guess that getting older
has a price

I can’t move so fast
and I can’t hold everything
that’s swirling around me

but I’m ok
as a simple man
it doesn’t mean that I’ve turned stupid

it doesn’t mean I’m losing control
or winding down

it just means my heart comes alive
to the sound of birdsong

it means I feel hope right in my hand
when I hold the loam
out of my garden

every day I hold my hand up
to slow the world down
just a little

it’s not that I can’t follow
or comprehend the things
that swirl around me

but I don’t want them
I have enough
it doesn’t mean I have dementia

it doesn’t mean I have no place
or someone to talk to

it just means I know who I am
and that’s sufficient

it means one best friend I can touch
is everything I own
and ever want to

every day I’m growing simpler
but not less
when I hold my hand up
I can touch you

and every day I find
that’s enough

© Frank Prem, 2011

learning to play

there is news from the absent one
who’s battling with a phone box
to say hello
with three dollars in the slot
that won’t go down

when the telephone’s persuaded
it’s like a gap of years
of ages
sweeps away
and she’s there again
a voice at distance
not a fantasy or the lost memory
of someone I loved
who’s gone

it’s only been a little while
but the place so usually warm
is aching cold

another day has gone
she’s doing things
I’m doing things

nothing special
just an hour here
a moment there

cooked some food
washed up

she’s been attending classes
learning how to blow a penny whistle
in celtic form

bought a snare drum
and bongo stand
the new keyboard that we talked about

and coming home
in a few days more
to play

the way we like to play
in the small ways we know

© Frank Prem, 2009

she rules

queen leelu of the chaise
when she’s not a-lounge
she’ll be barking out
at the sky
some bird passing failed to look
to make sure it was permitted
by the authority
(strictly local)

beware the royal anger
of a collie hackle-rise
that makes her twice the queen
shouting to the corners
of the room

how outrageous it is

in queen leelu’s domain
she rules

do not
be outrageous

© Frank Prem, 2009

secret life of eucalyptus

the front-yard eucalypt is tall and mature
it is evergreen mustard-shaded taper-leaves
red blossom and gumnuts

the tree sheds bark and other old growth throughout the year
and when the wind blows from the north
as it is today
the ground carries as many as enough
of fallen twigs and dry branches

this tree embodies support for a notion I have heard expressed
about a secret life of plants
about their capacity to experience pain
the possibility of them possessing feelings
in fact
I have now been startled into wondering if there is not
an entire societal structure not yet explored
for a glance upwards
towards the source of so much casually discarded refuse
reveals a dry branch twisting in the wind
clinging with the tip of a tortured tendril
to an extrusion out-thrust from a branch further above
it is a plaintive scene full of pathos and desperation
beyond the grasp of my reach

I am left to watch and to wonder
did it fall
or jump

was it perhaps

© Frank Prem, 2002

Moorabbin Airport, July 29, 2002

the setting of the sun pours paint across the western sky
turns single engine aeroplanes into avian silhouettes
gliding lower just above my head on approach to landing
rising acutely to achieve departure
black streaks suspended against the spread of orange
it is sundown at Moorabbin

the birds above the airfield do not fall to earth
with the descent of evening
they flock and fly in lazy sweeps
across runways without resort to traffic control
length to length they rely on a visual approach
and seem not to require the formal protocols
see and be seen
hear and be heard

pelican flotilla …….. ibis solo
a wheeling phalanx of starlings ……… gulls

Moorabbin birds can find their way around the airport terminus
they do not land on top of each other as dusk descends
they do not crash ……… they do not die
from the absence of air-traffic control
after six o’clock
beyond the orange of sundown


© Frank Prem,2002

an exit for the pit-bird

a trill to start
the song

yellow bird
golden cage
brightness taken down
into the darkness
to sing

sun and the blue
of sky

the green of grass
the clear of day

the lightness of a heart

the song slows down
like a tune

every now and then
every once
in a while

and sometimes it’s a struggle
to make a sound
the dark denies

in the darkness
the sound of the pit-bird

© Frank Prem, 2007