A Bit of Sweet Old Fashioned

there’s a little bit of sweet old-fashioned coming on
and I am bracing to lead the way and be the one
to say the words we need to hear out loud
it’s my turn
and I’m ready

in the traditional way I can gather up the numbers
brought together for a moment of salute and toast
and the babble of good natured joy and heart deep wishes
they’re all willing
and they’re ready

I could make a speech out of the many things
words of praise and wish you well and love you but
I don’t really think that’s right and might lead to fear
of too much said
if he’s not ready

I know it’s not old-fashioned and it doesn’t satisfy
but it might be better if I whisper things I need to say
in a corner with a quiet word and tearful hug before I ask you
to raise your glasses
when you’re ready

© Frank Prem, 2001

Published under the title ‘Toast’ in Manifold Magazine #38 (UK) May 2001


Rock’n’Roll Star

I used to be a rock’n’roll star
Used to hear the young girls scream
Used to sing to a hard guitar
Man, those riffs were just obscene.

The boys and me, would strut our stuff
When we walked onto the stage
Strobing lights and an audience roar
The fans came out to rage.

Then we’d hit the notes
Of the first hot song
The rhythm, the beat
All night long.

Until we’d played our hearts
Shouted our souls
Encores done
And we’d hit the road.

Ohhh, those days
On a rock’n’roll road
Yeah those nights
With a rock’n’roll broad.

Yeah, yeah, I used to be a rock’n’roll star.

I play a little blues at the local bar
I hear occasional clapping
I love the sound and the smoky air
Like to know I still make them happy.

I play alone, no entourage
No strutting needed here
The lights are low, a drinkers place
I wonder what they hear.

Just a gig sometimes
Day job running as well
Bluesy nights, merchant days
An early morning bell.

A little blue note
A touch of slide
Customers waiting
Ohh, what a ride.

Hey, I remember
Days on the road
And the nights that were blurry
In a rock’n’roll show.

Yeah, yeah, I used to be a rock’n’roll star.

Yeah, yeah, I used to be a rock’n’roll star.

© Frank Prem, 1998

non-photographic south

this is not a photograph

the composition however
seems close to perfect
from the clarity
of near-focus volcanic brown scoria
larger than pebble smaller than fist
to the symmetry of parallel pairs of lines
riding the brown over a middle-distance ridge
implying disappearance after breasting the rise
then perfectly aligned reappearance
without a break visible to the eye
separating by cleft suburbs from bay
until the point of nothing
at the distant end of sight

this is not a photograph
just the current framing
of a way to travel south

© Frank Prem, 2002

traversing the beechworth gorge

… and then we walked
through untidy scrub
and paths that needed reinvention

across granite monoliths
whole through the ages
with moss
now dry and thirsting
lichens clinging
unchanged by weather

and naked rock showing
a clean face
and still seeming newly broken
at the hands of the engineers,
thirty five years
after the time when I
was as old as the boy
breathing hard beside me
in this exposition of the past
with its smoke-blackened caves
and the peculiar silence
of distant cicada thrumming

trickling creeks
are obtained through thickets of berries
black and red
and slipping rock faces
worn smooth to cover
the rough edges
of a partly shared history.

listening to the marveling
and the disdain of the boy
I feel anew
the powerful passing pain
from the crunch of a loss of footing
in the sparse and tangled undergrowth
as a revelation
of the simplicity of pleasures
and momentary brutalities
still present in these rugged brown places
that I remember

fresh bruises
will pass quickly
the tenderness of reminder
will remain
acting as a balm
and a satisfying confirmation
that my yesterday
held moments of magic
still reachable now
even if
in somewhat smaller portions

© Frank Prem, 2001

Featured in the poetry e-zine Caught In The Net 1 April 2001. Don’y think it’s accessible any more.


Fall/Winter 2016/2017 Issue 10

The fall/winter issue of Red Wolf Journal, themed ‘The Heart Knows’ is out. Two of my poems – ‘Lub Dup (for the good of my heart)’ and ‘The Reviewer’ are featured.

I am delighted and grateful.



Red Wolf Journal


We are pleased to announce the release of Red Wolf Journal’s Fall/Winter 2016/2017 Issue 10:


The poets with work in this edition are:

Julia Cirignano
Darren C. Demaree
Arika Elizenberry
Edilson Afonso Ferreira
Jared M. Gadsby
Peter D. Goodwin
Jessica Goody
Christopher Hileman
Andrew Hubbard
John Huey
Patricia McGoldrick
Jean Voneman Mikhail
Frank Prem
Diana Raab
Pegi Deitz Shea
Sanjeev Sethi
Debi Swim
Larry D. Thacker
Maja S. Todorovic
Marg Walker

You are welcome to submit work to our upcoming Spring/Summer 2017 issue. The theme is “Sweet Sorrow”.

With pleasure,
Irene Toh and Tawnya Smith
Fall/Winter 2016/2017 Editors

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Way Poem #17: Boat to the Island

The good folk at The Drabble have given me a lovely Christmas gift by publishing one of my Way Poems – #17 the island, today.

Thank you Drabblers, I am delighted.

The Way poems were a little set that arose rather loosely from a consideration of Tao and the way it might be seen to work in different scenarios, and it’s lovely to see one of them in print.




By Frank Prem

the current calls

will you carry me

unfurl your sail
then let us drift together
beneath the sun

the lazy breeze
knows me well
and to where I’m bound


raise a little wake
for me

that I might feel the salt
and spray
as though we sail
for pleasure

my friend the breeze
has riffled my shirt
and you
are steadfast


let’s circle once
this island

the surf
broken on a shoal

the harbor

then tell the breeze
that I am ready
to ride the current
and her sweet luff

BIO: Frank Prem has self-published three collections of his work, The Book of Evenings (2003), Memoir of a Dog (2008), and Small Town Kid (2009).

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The Reviewer, by Frank Prem

A lovely Christmas Present from the good folk at Red Wolf Journal who have published one of my poems – The Reviewer.

Ho ho ho.

Cheers to everyone,


Red Wolf Journal

The Reviewer
by Frank Prem

why relief
he asked himself

it wasn’t better
sometimes worse

so why the feeling of relief

like a third person
a reviewer
hovering above
he looked back and down
at himself

at how good it had been

he found it hard to say aloud
what was in his head
feeling himself to be in battle
with an irrational conviction
that the sound of the words
would either turn everything
into overblown reality
or prove the lie

every good thing magnified
to an impossible goodness

every negative grown enlarged
until it loomed

he reflected on the way the unspoken
could be ignored
changed if need be
or hugged in a warmth
that hadn’t been aspired to
and could never be uttered aloud
for fear

he considered her

her need to hear him
his thoughts
his feelings
his reassurances

how he had tried

View original post 211 more words

of culture

when I was little more than child
my sister a teenager
we owned a reel-to-reel recorder
a brown quarter inch of plastic
fed from one reel through a channel
of pressing heads and circling rollers to the other

push both buttons down when you’re ready to record

my sister I believe has cultured me
from that young day to this
from the moment the microphone was applied up close
to the speaker of the radio
gathering disc jockeys and the songs they played
the pause button cutting out advertisements and banter

please don’t go near the lounge
and don’t make a noise
the taping has started

we played that first reel for month on month
until we knew the songs by heart
listening for hours save only those few minutes
when the tape required re-winding and re-feeding
then to start again with those familiar opening chords

today I heard a song played on golden-good-times-radio
so familiar that I sang it through and hardly missed a word
I knew the song that should have followed next
and the one that ought to have gone before
for there is an order to these things
established in 1969 when I was on the cusp of thirteen
and my sister ran the reel-to-reel that cultured me

© Frank Prem, 2002

Appeared in Melbourne zine ‘the mod-piece’ Issue 12 – the penis mightier than the sword – November 2002

Telling The Come-What-May

and you who have the words must speak
for those of us who stammer with our tongues
tied into swollen knots of mumbles rising red upon
our faces straining from the urgent need to say
what we have done and what has happened
where we have journeyed and to understand
what it may mean

you must speak us into stories so the world
will feel the presence of another minor place
and the events that pass in lifetimes spent outside
the glare of fame or fortune or attention
are shouted loudly in a relief that is finally overflowing
it is you who have the gift and you must give us life
inside your words

for we are forgotten into non-existence by the weariness
of reluctant footsteps grounded newly on a morning
when to rise is not to celebrate but to brace against
the burdens and the calls that stretch us almost
past the place of holding on to hope and comfort
yet knowing that as each day holds a pain too close
another may inspire

so tell us to the world without the treachery of stutter
by listening our truths into your open phrases of
translation that flow like a strike of meaning into
heads and minds removed from feeling warmth out of
ordinary moments in ordinary lives and normal suburbs
full of mortgage houses and desperation as stakeholder in our
pathetic come-what-may

you who have the words must write to tell them all our stories
you must tell of us in shapes and paragraphs of spoken pictures
you must tell of us in all our

© Frank Prem, 2001

Published in The Brown Critique (India) July – October 2001

hair wash on friday nights

the place where I grew up
was working class poor
small houses in a row
and slogging toil at the shipyards

the house had only a few rooms
with water connected to a bathroom
that butted onto the kitchen
with the washing machine in the middle
complete with mangle

the bathroom served as an overflow larder
with a timber rack
stretched across the bath
to accommodate jellies
packet goods and what-not

we had a gas heater arrangement
with the geyser on the wall
above the bath taps
we’d have to put a match to the pilot light
to crank it up
then the gas warmed up the water
and there you had it

friday was bathing night
the food and the rack across the tub
all had to be moved out
before we could heat the water
to get in for a scrub

of course
as a small tyke
it was a case of mum first
and then me
but I had a tub to myself when I grew bigger

if I needed a clean before friday night
mum would get me to balance
way up in the kitchen sink
then set to work on me with the flannels

as a young man
I’d use the sink in the kitchen
to freshen up a bit before I went out
we had to boil the water on the stove
transfer it by pot and pan to the sink
then mix it in with cold water
so that I wouldn’t accidentally cook my under-arms

made a heck of a mess on the floor

during the week
I’d stand on one leg to wash my feet
in the sink
seems a marvellous achievement
to me now
given the height of the thing

to answer your question
no I didn’t wash my hair every day
when I was a young bloke
and no
it wasn’t particularly strange

that’s just how it was

© Frank Prem, 2009

Published in: Trunk Volume 1: Hair ,2009 Hairwash On Friday Night