mcalpine’s cherries

Poem #36 from Small Town Kid

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cherries


in the weeks of heat and holidays
the cherry-lined branches
are burdened deep purple
or black or red
with the promised succulence
revealed through the light loam dust
raised by a shower of passing rain

the trees stand
in leafy straight lines
over and around the hillside
categorised by variety
and the timing of their readiness
set wide enough apart
for the tractor to deposit and collect
bins of the picked fruit
taken singly or in joined clusters
of twins and triplets
that may straddle a teenage ear
in a moment of unproductive decoration

the gun pickers
fill their buckets in what seems
like just a moment
up and down the ladders
to strip a tree
and move to the next
in the time it takes
to have a good look around
and a sip of tea
from the thermos

my paltry efforts might be improved
if I wasn’t afraid of ladders
since the apples of last season
flung me to the ground

and perhaps I’d last longer
before getting sacked
if my friend and I
weren’t fighting
cherry-dodging battles with juicy missiles

flying between adjoining rows
to the irritation of the boss
old mac mcalpine
during his daily inspections
of the adequacy and progress
being made by the casual labour

his free advice to novice pickers
resounds with a wealth of acquired
orchardist wisdom and kindliness
when he tells us in a burred brogue

b-h-o-o-ys
if you’re going to eat ‘em
eat the bir-r-r-r-d pecked ones
they’r-r-e the sweetest

good advice
but after three days
I never wish to see or to touch
one of those red devils again


© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 37: tba

fight

Poem #34 from Small Town Kid

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tension builds
from sunday

through a week
of minor huddles
that materialise
and dissipate
on street corners

and where the local lads
the ones with wheels
and those merely
in attendance
half-form tactical groups
for a moment

to plot
make arrangements
for the coming friday

anticipation melds
with the planning
of ways to set the scene
for the great
get-even
with the smart-arse fools
from the other town
who have no right
to claim ascendancy

self-respect screams
for vengeance

next friday

~

there are thirty
or more
around the two
at the side of the street
in the granite gutter

chosen site
for the confrontation

knuckles and knees
punctuated by
the soft dull thud
of a metal pipe
striking home

among raw grunts
and muffled kicking
the stranger is downed
according to plan

the esteem
of the town
undergoes a restoration
with each connecting strike

the sound of the blows
in the eerie near-silence
is a pulse beat that reaches
to touch the young witness
running for home
with his eyes fixed
wide open


© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 35: hating whitey

yonnie power

Poem #33 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction


the street boy is out
again

sullen in the pull
and push
of adolescence
he has grown more comfortable
alone

in this town the boys learn early
the art of throwing stones

piffing a yonnie
at cans
at trees
roadsigns

skimming across the lake

discouraging a dog
from following

seeing how close you can get
to a kid who’s across the road

one of the dreaded multitude
of atkinsons
who’ll piff one at you
if you aren’t quick enough
to get in first

tonight
it could be either
skill refinement
or energy conservation

but one way
or another
the street light
on the church corner
is about to be
extinguished


© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 34: fight

holes in pockets

Poem #32 from Small Town Kid

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cigarettes can burn holes
in a pocket
when a teacher
gets too close

and that
makes it hard to hide
a small habit
from the danger
of a mother’s investigations

do you suppose
he was talking
just as a way
of passing time

maybe
rising smoke
was making him think
of fire

and I wonder if he knows
that by standing
for so long
too close
he was causing
danger
to our young
and tender lives

because
cigarettes
can burn holes


© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 33: yonnie power

relentlessness

Poem #31 from Small Town Kid

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I think I sense
a little weakness
don’t you

she looks
a bit nervous
wouldn’t you say

she isn’t very sure
of herself
that’s obvious

what if we just
ignore her
when she speaks
and do some
clowning around
instead of working

I don’t reckon
she can handle it
what do you think

let’s do something
secret and silly
up the back

ha
she’s started yelling
and she looks red
losing it

look
she’s brought a newspaper
reading it

instructions on the board
not even trying
to talk to us

I think we’ve got her

is this the first time
it’s happened
it must be

I’ve never seen
one cry
like that before

I wonder
what we can do
next


© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 32: holes in pockets

state of the art

Poem #30 from Small Town Kid

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frank would rather…

bloody mister mussen

who does he think he is

I don’t reckon he’s ever liked me
and he never
ever
gives me a fair go

…spend all his time…

anyway
art is a crappy subject
and he’s a lousy teacher

so what if I can’t draw

paper-mâché is just messy rubbish

…flirting with the girls…

and I don’t

I

do

not

flirt with the girls

I only mess around a bit

he just can’t teach

…than learning art…

oh man

mum’s going to eat me
for this report card


© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 31: relentlessness

a tricky place (the annual fete)

Poem #29 from Small Town Kid

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the c-of-e churchyard
with its granite tower and solid isolation
is a tricky place

draped in solemn appearance
and with an air of long abandonment
held lazily in the overgrown waving
of dry grass
dilapidated outbuildings
leaning posts and loose wire netting
hardly hint at a time before neglect

it seems small now
almost shrivelled
lifeless

~

once a year
it happens once a year
the noise shatters the afternoon
as an old ute with two loudspeakers
attached above the roof of the cabin
does circuits of the town
and can be heard in a garbled blur
from three streets off
and not much better up close

but it doesn’t matter what they’re saying
because we already know

the preparations have been happening
for days
and we’ve watched as the main arena
has been swept clean
the fences mended
and mountings for the short logs
beaten into firm position
for the woodchoppers to go at it

the bunnies are to start at nine or ten
and the call winds down
backwards
to zero
before the scratch-marker swings his axe

the o’toole boys are unbeatable
and will put the blade
through a short log from left to right
first on one side and then the other
leaping off the mountings a single stroke
before those with a nine second start

we know that the clowns
will be moving their heads
slowly from side to side
tempting us to put a ping-pong ball
inside their gaping mouths
and that the bamboo hoops might be rewarding
if one would only fall properly
around the prize

and that knocking down blocks with a ball
is easy
until you have just two left standing
while pinging ducks with a slug gun
would be a piece of cake
if they would stop moving so fast

we tasted the fairy floss last year
and pronounced it good

there has already been talk
about sneaking away from mum and dad
to smoke a secret cigarette
and about which girl might be tempted
to try a first kiss or…

there may be a sausage sizzle this year
if the grass isn’t too dry
for the risk of fire

the merry-go-round is reserved
for little kids
and all of them will be there
with people from town
and from the local farms
chatting in groups
and walking in their good clothes
through the heat of the evening

to the spinning wheel where there’s

four tickets left for a shilling
who wants these last four tickets
and any pick of the prizes on the third shelf

we can’t spin the wheel till we’ve sold
the last two tickets

are you ready

spinning now

it’s number twenty-five blue
who’s got twenty-five blue

come on up elsie and help yourself
to something from the third shelf

~

this churchyard is a tricky place
in its abandonment

it looks like nothing has happened here
for a very long time


© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 30: state of the art

at easter

Poem #28 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction


they’ve started early this year
it’s not yet half-past six
but the main roads are barricaded and attended
to divert traffic

golden balloons are being inflated
to form two vibrant arches
one each side of the main intersection
where the parade will pass
in a homage to the local legend
of a horse shod in golden shoes
back in the days of the rush
when this small town and its rich fields
were a glittering power

the vintage bakery van
is in the street
it’s about a thousand years old
and restored in shining red

last year they offset the wheels
to make it bobble up and down in the parade
on pencil thin tyres
like a clown car

trestles and marquees are being erected
food and music
trinkets craft and produce
all will be on display
before the main event
around noon

~

and here we are
the family gathered at easter
from melbourne and adelaide
by train and by car
to fill my parents house
with talk and consumption
reminiscence and warmth

we too are celebrating
not easter
but ourselves
the fact of us through the years
and our own legends

later we will witness the parade
visit the family outliers
bask in the pleasure
of this occasional rejuvenation

we will remember ourselves
as we were
and reflect on the paths we have traveled
before returning to witness again
the easter parade


© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 29: a tricky place (the annual fete)

fires of autumn

Poem #27 from Small Town Kid

Back to Small Town Kid – Introduction


on the nature strip
in front of each house
leaves are raked into small heaps
below the exposed branches
of a long street lined with naked elms

the crumpled sheets of yesterday’s news
are inserted
to the centre of each
yellow gold and brown pile

cold stillness awaits
the striking of a match
and the rising taste of smoulder

the time has come
let the fires of autumn
be lit


© Frank Prem 2009

Small Town Kid Poem 28: at easter