after the ball

Psychiatry 2: Student Daze – Poem 34 (last poem in this section)

the annual hospital ball
is a dying tradition

this could be the last
so we have drunk and eaten
danced and fallen
talked nonsense
through a long night

one of our tutor’s boobs
popped out of her dress
while performing a vigorous two-step
her dance partner tried
to return the offending item
by levering it
with a dessert spoon

his wife didn’t approve
and they left early

here I am starting work
at seven in the morning
and have not gone home
have not changed clothes
have not slept

leila who is in charge
of the medical ward
has seen it all before

takes me in hand
and lays me down
for a few hours kip
in a vacant bed

come back

she says

when you’re awake
and sober

© Frank Prem, 2016

Notes on: after the ball

Next – New Section: ‘After Asylum”


better than that

Psychiatry 2: Student Daze – Poem 33

wanda is middle aged
and manic

her mouth is going
ninety to the minute

she can’t stop
can’t rest
can’t leave anything alone

babble babble
fiddle fiddle


she has hit me
open handed
across my face

there is a grin
hiding just in the corner
of those piggy eyes

and I want to
strike her down

but as a good nurse
I remind myself
for weeks
I remind myself
that I am
that I have to be
much better
than that

© Frank Prem, 2016

Notes on: better than that

Next – after the ball

huntington’s marionette

Psychiatry 2: Student Daze – Poem 32

she is young
perhaps forty years old
but in with the psycho-geriatrics

huntington’s chorea
makes her dance
in a long slow death
that steals the mind
before it takes the body

she is drooling

and for the duration
of a six-week long
rostered placement
has possession
of my breaking heart

© Frank Prem, 2016

Notes on: huntington’s marionette

Next – better than that

bounce and flow

Psychiatry 2: Student Daze – Poem 31

a manic young woman

she is in seclusion
jumping up and down up and down
in front of the window

to hold my attention
she has taken her top off
going up and down
up and down

she moves around the window
making sure
she keeps me focused
on her action
up and down
up and down

when the water seeps
under the wall
destroying the carpet
I realise
she had stuffed towels
and tissue paper
into plugholes and toilet pans
then let the water flow
and flood

while she bounced
for me

up and down
up and down

© Frank Prem, 2016

Notes on: bounce and flow

Next – huntington’s marionette

medication jam

Psychiatry 2: Student Daze – Poem 30

medication time
in the retardation ward

there is a line
four metres long
of joyful anticipatory faces
queued up
like traffic delayed
in peak hour

one at a time
they shuffle forward
to receive a large dollop of jam
with tablets enclosed
placed upside-down
onto each tongue
and wiped clean
by sticky lips

© Frank Prem, 2016

Notes on: medication jam

Next – bounce and flow

in charge of retardation

Psychiatry 2: Student Daze – Poem 29

the room is all women
dumpy and thick
short and spherical

oversized and swollen
dilantin gums
that hold no teeth

me with thirty women

the moment the evening meal
is finished
all thirty of them
are disrobing

their clothes flung
through the dining-room window
to the ground outside

I am surrounded
by a wriggling
fleshy tableau

and no conception
of what I am meant to do next

where I should look

© Frank Prem, 2016

Notes on: in charge of retardation

Next: medication jam

getting stuffed

Psychiatry 2: Student Daze – Poem 28

a man has died

I am learning
that it is nurses work
to prepare the body

I understand
sponging down

and ticketing a label
to a toe

I can make sense
of the slack body

the difference
that absence of life

and I realise the point
of inserting wadding
into loosened orifices

but I cannot comprehend
the rage
of the Senior Nurse
as she manipulates
the gauze with tongs

and there are no explanations
in my texts
to account for her need
to apply such a vicious
final insertion

© Frank Prem, 2016

Notes on: getting stuffed

Next – in charge of retardation


a day at the races

Psychiatry 2: Student Daze – Poem 27

the ward outing
is at a local racetrack

patients onboard
staff onboard
food supplies onboard
alcohol onboard

the quantity of beer
is heroic

all drink freely
a good time is had

the return trip
is an hour of smells
and vomit

some of it
is even due
to the patients

© Frank Prem, 2016

Notes on: a day at the races

Next – getting stuffed

row your boat

Psychiatry 2: Student Daze – Poem 26

a tall gaunt man
from the retardation wards
walks the grounds daily

nondescript overalls
and absent socks

in a world of his own

I see him spread
a large white table-napkin
on the ground
take a seat on it
and begin to rock
as though rowing a boat

he leaves the napkin behind
when he wanders away

drawn in blue biro
to fit the boundaries of his canvas
are the boards
seat and oarlocks
of a rowboat

© Frank Prem, 2016

Notes on: row your boat

Next – a day at the races

bathing the locked ward

Psychiatry 2: Student Daze – Poem 25

twenty-five hunched
pigeon-chested little men
run naked
across the cobbled winter courtyard

to the bathroom
in and out
of the peninsula bath

one is fecal
for him
the shower
and a stiff scrubbing brush
on a four-foot long
extended handle
to prevent splash-back
onto the nurse

the room is steam
and smell

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – row your boat

Notes on: bathing the locked ward