searching for home

she is home
between the houses
on her street

she is home
seeking long butts
on discarded cigarettes

and home
when she smokes one
with her feet up
outside on the rotunda chair
like some lady
in a movie almost
as she exhales

home is snugged
in an armchair in the lounge
legs draped
across the side
while she screenplays
an elaborate plot

for a movie

for a director to read
and say

this is wonderful

this play has the feel
of …

playing in her head
out loud
she can hear the voices
making vows to her

is walking in between the houses
that all face
the street
called home

and she wanders
looking for the feel
of home

she has found
an old stogie

and that’s

© Frank Prem, 2016



Mister Frank – simply the best

mister frank is the very best nurse
mister frank is a great nurse
la la la la
mister frank

she calls me Mister Frank
and I call her Miss Shirley

I’m not sure why Mister Frank
is scoring so well today
I think I can handle it all right

maybe it’s because I dish out
the pills
more likely
because I remind her
what she’s ordered for lunch
and sympathise
about how many showers she’s had to take today
how often she’s had to change her bedding
wash the clothes
the sweeping
the relentless demands
on her time and her mental stamina
working working
all in the space of a single day

at least
that’s her story

it can be tiring just to listen
to the litany of burden
but today I’ve made the effort
and as a result I can see
that Mister Frank is clearly
the best

Mister Frank
can I have a cigarette

© Frank Prem, 2016

things they don’t describe too well (at all)

unpleasant content warning

they don’t really tell you
that you’ll make a dead man vomit
they just say

keep the airway clear

they don’t tell you that
the kiss of life is a test
of resolution over disgust

they don’t describe the change
in his temperature
from warm to cool
to colder

and they don’t describe the sound
of the gurgling
every time you give a breath
every time you pump his heart
every time you expect that he might cough
and start to wake up

and they don’t describe the moment
when your doubt becomes conviction
but you keep on pushing
and you keep on breathing
and you keep on doing it anyhow

just the way they told you

there’s surely a lot that they don’t tell you
and you have to hold on to the hope
that there’ll be someone close enough
to tell you
when you can stop

© Frank Prem, 2011

on harridan avenue

Psychiatry 5: Hostel Life – Poem 73 (a)

on harridan avenue
the argument turns
on who saw the cigarette
that’s lying on the ground

it’s mine

no it’s not you’re nothing but a bitch

well I lent you one yesterday

oh you’re such a liar
you never lent me anything
and now I HATE you

the trees have heard
the neighbours know
the echoes repeat the accusation
it seems a touch extreme
but a cigarette
is law
is money in the bank
is a transport to a moment of satisfaction

on harridan avenue
the girls make up
after one’s informed the staff
about what the bitch has done
and the other has screamed
to her small world
about injustice
and woe

they get on well enough
and they’re better than the third old girl
whose place
is collecting the used up stubs
of long gone butts
and begging flame
to get a light

she laughs in that old fashioned way
that you still hear
now and then
on harridan avenue

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – Psychiatry 6 – Epilogue

happy chronicity

Psychiatry 5: Hostel Life – Poem 73

and we’re a car full of chronics
on the way to wodonga
to see an authorised doctor
to get the clozapine renewed

beside me
she’s babbling in a balkan conversation
that needs no other speakers
but a fellow traveler
in the back of the car
is solicitous

are you alright
rosie dear

another guy with a german name
is pushing me beyond distraction
with a fiendish prattle that features
some interaction between cows
and scottish bagpipes

billy-boy completes the number
they’re playing in my head
through the use of applied philosophy
when he asks the question


are you happy

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – on harridan avenue

praying m

Psychiatry 5: Hostel Life – Poem 72


she comes my way
the peroxide blonde bombshell
who is all red lipstick
ghost foundation
and a tottering
half-moccasin shuffle

last heard screaming

you’re a b_____d
you’re nothing but
a b____y-f____n-b_____d

in the context of my failure
to adequately distribute her ration
of cheap menthol gaspers
every hour
on the hour

can you help me Frank
I’ve got a praying mantis in my hair

that one’s a conversation stopper

and sure enough
there clings
a fourteen centimetre long
bronzed-copper beastie
looking well at home
in the outlandish
fine but brittle

they like me
they do

they look at me
all the time
in the smoking shed

they stare

but they like me

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – happy chronicity

This piece has been on the blog before, but I am placing it in its series context here.

parfait crazy

Psychiatry 5: Hostel Life – Poem 71

I’m sitting with a mental illness
she could be schizophrenia
she could be
manic-d (bi-polar)
a druggie full of voices in her head
but now
she’s a parfait glass of chocolate
topped with cream
and dripping syrup

I’m a flat white

and I’m sitting with an insanity
and refreshments
at a pavement table
wondering what to say
but I know there’s nothing

are you ready to go back yet

and I know she is

I’ve been sitting with a mental illness
she’s a crazy
I’ve no doubt it’s true
but it seems that I’m the one
who’s paying

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – praying m

looking forward to a homecoming

Psychiatry 5: Hostel Life – Poem 70

I can tell you what happened

she took her clothes off
and started walking around
in the corridors
and past all the other residents

the senior nurse noticed
and asked me to do something about it
so I nicely took her by the hands
and led her to her room

she even smiled at me a little
though there’s not much expression
on her face

we entered the room
and oh
she was as quick as quick
and without any warning
she turned her hands over
and dug her nails into my wrist

really hard

I screamed
the pain was excruciating
and she forced me down to my knees
by digging harder

I thought she’d cut
right through
to an artery

it took all three of the other nurses
that I was on duty with
to prise her fingers out of me

I was a hell of a mess afterwards
don’t worry about that
blood and tears
emotional trauma


all last night I was nearly hysterical
and my husband got so angry
I think because he felt helpless
swore he wouldn’t let me go back
to work

the thing that stuck in my mind
was the way she stayed silent
showed nothing on her face
and yet I could tell she really meant it
really meant to hurt me

I’m at work again today
I mean these people need care
don’t they
and someone has to do it

but enough of that
how is she doing in the acute unit
when is she likely to be discharged

we need to get ready
for when she comes back home

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – parfait crazy

cracked-pepper clinic

Psychiatry 5: Hostel Life – Poem 69


she says it with a sing-song inflection at the end


an insistent entry into my consciousness

I’m driving back from wangaratta
where we have attended the fracture clinic
two weeks ago she fell down some stairs
and received a tiny crack in one toe

the receptionist beckons to me after registration

do you know what she told me her name was
she said it was autumn
autumn summer

we agreed that autumn summer
would be quite a nice name at that
and smiled knowingly at each other

now here
on the drive back to the hostel
she has been watching me closely for twenty kilometers



when we get back
can you do something
on your computer

what is it you want me to do

could you fix up the pepper in my head


what does the pepper do inside your head

you know

she says

it goes round and round
and stops me from reading and from writing

will you get on the computer and fix it

well of course I will

as soon as we get back
to the hostel

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – looking forward to a homecoming


under the skin

Psychiatry 5: Hostel Life – Poem 68

they are morphogenetic twins
with only superficial differences
disguises to mislead the inattentive

cardigan overlay
streaky grey hair

platinum blonde wig
wide broad red lipstick



piercing SHRIEK

piercing SHRIEK

it’s not my fault paul
it was the other one that did it paul
I’m only six years old

It’s not my fault frank
it was bella inside me she did it
I’m only twenty-three

can I have a smoke
it’s time for my smoke now paul

frank will you get my smoke now
I want my smoke now frank

oh you’re such a BASTARD paul
get out get out GET AWAY FROM ME
I HATE you

I am SO going to marry robert
he DID NOT write that he wants me out of his life
I HATE you frank you’re a BASTARD

hahahaha I like you paul
you’re not too bad

I really like you frank
you’re nicer than those other nurses

good night paul

good night frank

goodnight my dear girls

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – cracked pepper clinic