lagoon #31

we are a solemn gathering

I stand at the top of the path
with you
looking down into the bowl

to me
it is a forlorn sight
with the floor cracked open
like a crazed sore
but too tender to touch

the fallen trees
are a disquiet
in the thin embrace of silence

the tall weeds
still green on moisture
stolen from the drying corpse
are a mourning crowd
leaning in
towards the heart of the bowl

one fish
two fish
remain obscenely mounted

waving farewell
from grey branches
others merging by degrees
into the exhausted soil
and the dust
of a memory

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: This is the final piece in the Drought/Lagoon series. Thank you for reading to the end.

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seasonal content

the season has changed
without doubt now

in the space of a week
it has passed from light summer-doona
to winter
and back again
as the nights have cooled

from shorts and no shirt
to trackie-daks
socks and slippers

each evening
has been starry
and cool

the night before last
it rained
a brief burst
but substantial

it has not stopped

the season has changed
for sure
and the predictions
have also come true
el niño has departed
for parts unknown

whether it’s for a long time
or short
whether la niña is to replace him
whether the drought
is now passing

no-one can know
the water I feel
on the collar of my jacket

the puddle I can splash
with my boots
are confirmation
of a brand new season

right now

I feel content

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: lagoon #31 (final)

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lagoon #30

desiccation has occurred

the plump
water-fat fish bodies
have sagged and shriveled

and the waterhole
this strangely fascinating study
of heat and time
and detached involvement
has shrunk with them
since yesterday

it is no more
than a muddy bog

a death hallow
with disturbing shapes
suspended in ghost branches
and a handful of pathetic corpses
abandoned and half buried
in the wake
of a no longer existent waterline

the lone ibis
stalking the remnants
of this distressed summer
can have no further reason
to return

© Frank Prem, 2006

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parched harvest

the hints
that it may be going
or perhaps
keep getting reported

tonight though
I drove home from my work
a different way
maybe it’s the time of year
a seasonal thing

maybe they were old
I don’t know
but I passed a mountain
of uprooted trees
higher than I’ve ever seen

and heaped together
like a massive bonfire stack
before cracker night
on the fifth of november

and across the road
pears hung
yellow and over-ripe



the trees un-watered
their leaves parched
and curled

this is orchard country
peopled by folk
who love their trees
as their children

and I cannot believe
no I cannot quite believe
the worst
is over

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: lagoon #30

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lagoon #29

it has come more quickly
than I’d expected

less than a day
since my last visit
they are revealed
in a miserable totality

while we approach
along the walking path
a young boy
a teenager
is leaving the remnant billabong
mud coating hands and legs
as he rides by
on a bicycle

he has been wading
and dabbling

a few fish
un-loved carp
are dead on the shoreline
but these don’t arrest the eye

it is the ones in the air
that make the breath catch

for they have been mounted
mouth first
onto branches of the fallen trees
that create the boundary
and structure
of the waterhole

they hang
still and dead
but water-fat and shining
only recently placed
for display

the boy calls a cheery
as he rides away

I can see
one ripple

a sole escapee
waits to be claimed
by drought
or some more unspeakable

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: parched harvest

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normal wonder


canberra has been buried
by ice

a massive hail storm anyway

about a metre deep
in places

filling shops and houses
meeting places
and centres of discourse

biggest storm
in years

but here
we had clouds
on the horizon

light shows and grumbles
but not that good wet stuff

I drove past a water-channel
two days ago

they were doing flood irrigation
around the fruit trees

the channel was full
water was lying in the ground
and I felt


I’ve been feeling that way
a lot

I wonder if the rain
when it comes
it will come
one of these days

when it comes
I wonder if it will
wash away
the helplessness

leave me
feeling on top of things

as though they’d made
the right decisions

I wonder
will the rain
change everyone’s life

anyone’s life

back to

I wonder
what that would feel like

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: lagoon #29

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lagoon #28

it resembles a desolation

the nondescript weed
that has grown in the aftermath
of water
is a sickly shade of green
and stands as tall as a man

it is like a pestilence
surrounding the last of the pond
and together with the brown algae
suggests stagnation

the fish are evident
in clusters
gathered where the floor of the pond
dips slightly
to accommodate a bare centimetre
of extra water

when I walk this way
to see what is left
I carry a slightly sickly sensation
in my stomach
before the first sight

I’m almost at the stage
of wishing I could not visit
any more

no need to witness
the coup de grâce
I am drawn to this

there is nothing to be done
the pond will dry
and yet

this small note
may be a larger sum
than nothing

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: normal wonder

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the farmer’s march

that and now it is almost past february
I’m surrounded
by the flashing strobe
of lightning

the agitation of thunder

from here
bedded in the heart
of the month
they say now
that it will be march

march will see the end
of el niño

the bravest have announced
the very date
of his un-hastened retreat
after so many wasteland years
and from my trembling seat
I can almost believe them

and yet
today I heard tell
of another deadline

have made their play

they’ve sown crops

and done whatever farmers
desperate in their last hopes
in direst straits
have always done
and it has been declared

in march
the rain must come

I hesitate in my celebrations
for light shows
and noise
can be performed dry

while march
is a race
run so very close

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: lagoon #28

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lagoon #27

it’s a difficult image
to get out of my head

I’ve avoided the writing
for days now

it remains

it is such a small pondage now

I’ve seen
from the depth of water
measured against a spoonbill leg
that it is shallow
all the way across

mere inches

but the fish
are an extraordinary sight

pools ripple
in a dozen or more places
signs of the cold creatures
in constant motion

on the banks
in only half-coverage of water
the big ones lie
swishing their bodies
and without point
from side to side
half their over-sized bodies
above the water

they are muddling in muck
and it is as confronting a sight
as I
have ever seen

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: the farmer’s march

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rain traces

the storms have arrived

in this geography
as the summer wanes
we get storms

each night
on the news
the weather tracker
shows where there has been lightning

where it has started fire

where there is prospect
of rain

we have had some rain

on more than one occasion
there has been a downpour
a lovely tattoo
to fall asleep to

in the mornings
eucalyptus fills the air
as the trees release precious oils
like a celebration

but this is not a promise
it is only a play
brought by a fluke of timing
in the seasonal cycle

I will not believe
until the water rises
to lap at my feet

until the billabong
is more than a dry depression
so thirsty
it swallows this random rain
without a trace

© Frank Prem, 2006

Next Poem: lagoon #27

Back to Drought/Lagoon – Introduction