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

before breakfast

Psychiatry 5: Hostel Life – Poem 67

these four are a hormone
there’s one for your blood
a small one so you piddle
two to get you sorted
down below
and in behind

the purples are for mood swings
the green one my dear
is just because you’re mad

and in case of a side effect
there’s one more as well

hold out your hand
it’s like a bag full of lollies
isn’t it
there’s gob-stops
jelly beans and smarties
and a drink with some fizz

be careful
don’t fart

no don’t ask
just swallow them down
my dear

I’ll get you a slice of warm toast
with marmalade

enjoy your breakfast

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – under the skin

the tweedle man

Psychiatry 5: Hostel Life – Poem 66

they dress him in braces
that hold up his jeans
to just under his chest

with a red cap on top
he is baby brother
to the tweedles
both dum and dee

special built boots for club feet
adjust a walking slant
that can’t make up its mind
to be either a jaunt
or a topple-in-progress

under the cap is the devil of a grin
and the gleam from his eyes
could be a boy’s glass marbles
peeping out from a close-held bag


look at my pants nurse

it’s an outrage
to be wet again

look nursey
look at my pants

who’s going to change him


and after that
it’s unspoken but shared
that it’s ever so much better
dear nursey
sweet nurse
much much better
to be dry

he slant-saunters away
hidden somewhere under the brim
of his hat

tweedle-ee tweedle-ay

© Frank Prem, 2016
Next -before breakfast

cigarette? still laughing!

Psychiatry 5: Hostel Life – Poem 65

she’s a stroller
with teeth
false ones that shine bright
like ill-fitting pickets
behind a rictus of lips

and that particular laugh

heh heh heh Heh HEh HEH HEH

would work best
around a cauldron
in a group of three

with thunder

beady-eyed chief scrounger
her stroll is always

in pursuit

of an unfinished cigarette
a butt-end that can be manipulated
to provide the elusive last drag
or a light
to get the


damn thing going

on sunny days
the cackle
filters down the slope of the yard

from where she reclines
on the hostel’s broken chaise lounge
and chortles to a private amusement
from the apex position
that commands a view
of every likely location
and repository
for a careless discard

retrieved swiftly
like the bright flash
of descended lightning
while the fag-end still bravely salutes
with the rise of a sinuous blue wisp

oh yes
this is the good life

heh Heh HEH

© Frank Prem, 2016

Next – the tweedle man

This poem has appeared on the blog previously. It is included here to place it in context.