sleeping tales

my father is unhappy
he says I have written
too close to home
in the telling of a story
about hotel life

he thinks
I have intruded
shown too much
that the revelations
might reflect poorly on him

he has changed the place he drinks


and so I have promised I will search no more
for the stories that only he can tell
I will no longer pen his tales

and I will never again
seek the recipes
for rakija
or slivovic
recipes that would be a rich poetry
in the mere listing of their ingredients

will never tell the secrets
of the ‘the bread-room‘ in the old hospital
that I found fascinating
when I was a child
with its machine that could butter bread
while it rapid-sliced the loaf
always leaving the slices right side up

and where men would sit on butter-boxes
on a sunday afternoon
drinking until they fell
only to be discovered by the boss
instantly dismissed
except for the man
who slid timely into the storeroom
through a connecting hatchway
and kept his job

I will leave them alone
I have promised my father
and I do not enjoy his displeasure

I will not write them
will let them lie sleeping
until my father’s time is passed
and the tales themselves are dead

© Frank Prem, 2004


in translation: we should leave

Sada mi dojde”s?
Koji vrijeme je ovo sti’ci doma?

She saying to him: Now you here? What time this is, to be arrive home?

Ti i tvoja neculturna banda! Jel niste znali koji vrijeme je ve’c pro”slo?

She say: You and you no-culture band, eh … group … of friend.
Do you not know what time is past?

Evo ti, vataj ako o’ce”s jesti!

She say: Here, you catch if you want eat something. Careful Frenk, for you jacket. Oh, sorry. We clean later.

I ti? “Sta ti brblja”s? Zasto si ti tu u ovaj vrijeme? Jel nema”s sam svoj dom? Huh? I ko je ovaj stebom? Neki novi?

She saying to me, now: And what you babble, why you here this time, you no have home for you-self, and who is this new one with you?

Ja “cu ti dat novi jedan, samo ti “cekaj!

She say: I show you new one, just wait you! Frenk, I think it better we leaving she and she husband now.

Quickly before she come back. Quickly.

Sorry Frenk.

She is … what is words … too little toleration. Is better we leave them. I take you to small gostionica is open late.

We talk more in that one. I sing you song from moj stari home.

© Frank Prem, some time ago.


Hell’s bells, I didn’t think I’d have occasion to pop this piece up, but you can rely on the Daily Prompt to shake the archive.

Apologies to any true speakers for translation errors. Writing the language is a bit of a struggle for me.

one more chances

Kad ti ne”sto tako dojde
nemoj “cekat, sinko moj,
samo nemoj ti “cekat.

when I was young man,
I think I tell you this before,
the girls,
they always like me
too much.

I am beautiful young man,
them days,
very handso, you know?

I walk all time
like man who own whole street.
I make the special zrak to follow
wherever I must go.

How can the tsure not be loving me too much?
Is not possible.

But, you know, jedan dan
I turn, look at me
and, oh hoh,
I am not young no more.
Not so beautiful.

I am nearly old like my otata,
with the veliki trbuv,
big hair in moj nos.
Make snore like pig when I sleeping.

Not so good for the tsure no more, huh?

I say,
ba”s me briga.
I don’t care.
I am for me
and this is ok.

Who is concern I am alone? Not me, Frenki boy,
not me.


You see this picture on wall Frenki?
She is beautiful, this one, yes?
Who you believe her be? My daughter?
My niece?

No, Frenki. She is my girlfriend.
She and me go to movie, we holding hands in street.
We are happy and we together like the lovebirds.

What you mean she is too young?
You are insult to me.
Is good job you are moj prijatelj
or I don’t want to tell you things no more.

She is girlfriend.
She is young woman.
She don’t care I am nekaki stari dinosaur.

She say she see me like young man.
Still beautiful only better.
She think I am smart one, too.

Is good, that one, yes?

Anyway, Frenki,
I don’t tell you my loving-life story.
I tell you something different.

when you get you chance,
you one-time second chance,

Frenki, you must take him.
You must take him and hold him.
You don’t let go.

You never too old, Frenki,
to take this one more chance.

Take him sinko moj. Just you take him.

© Frank Prem, 2006

Fashion Cleanser

every Monday it’s wet surfaces
on knees with washing cloth
and liquid cleanser

bathrooms and kitchen
wipe down chairs and vacuum
some days the refrigerator

we don’t often say much beyond

how are you

but once she said

this is no be forever Frenk
is for my children
is not what I do for all my life

I was maker of feshion clothes
feshion in Warsaw before ten year ago
I come here to live

in show my girls wear gold tiara and dress
you know
long dress with here cut so and so
walk little bit like this …..

in my heart still is designer
but here must work something for money

is not feshion but is work

I would one day like be artist again
artist yes

where you want me put you poem pages

© Frank Prem, 2003

the first love

You love your country, Frenki? This place
where you grow up, become man? Yes,
I love her plenty, too, but she is not my number one love.
That one is far away, over land and sea. Maybe
more over sky today, but when I come here
was everyone in the big boat. Avion was
not so much then.

I still think of her like home, you know? She is
not my home no more, but that is how I call her.

When I was little boy, we have the big war. Then, after,
we have communisti. It was then, when I grow up
to man, I decide to leave her. I love her, you know,
but I have to leave. The communisti re”zim
was too strong, they choke me up to the neck, nearly.
So, I go.
I come to Australia.

Frenk, sometimes I think of her too much, still. Is like
I have hole in my heart, but here is my living. Here is me.
Sometimes, this is very hard.

Communisti is gone now. Is free much more,
but is not mine. My love is from long time back,
and these new ones, what they can do for man like me?
Nothing. Is just new re”zim instead old one.
I am now Australski strange-man, with heart for here,
and heart back with lover from too many old years gone.

Yes, can be hard, sometimes.

© Frank Prem, 2003

This poem was published in a short lived poetry Journal – Salt Lick Quarterly – in 2003

telephone dumplings

mutti said
Frenk you should be here
I’m making k-nedl-e
do you remember
what they are
dumplings for putting into chicken supa

sounds good ma
but what I always remember
from when I was a kid
is shoof-nudl-e
the yellow doughy-pastry that you used to make
into long thin ropes
by rolling it backwards and forwards fast
on your knee in the laundry

she laughed

don’t be silly Frenki
that was a joke I did once
for you children
shoof-nudl-e are rolled on a pastry board
you funny boy

supa is ready
do you want some

I wish you were here
goodbye now

© Frank Prem, 2002

appeared in Melbourne zine ‘the mod-piece’ Issue 13 – prerogative – December 2002

Zlata’s Daughter

I met zlatica when I was young
on a visit to the old country
we held hands at the village dance
and walked evenings on the corzo

when I left
she gave me golden dice on a chain
and said osjećaj me – remember me


zlata is a mother now
a grandmother         a survivor of war
between croats and serbs

I don’t understand what the hell
they thought they were doing
to places where we went to talk and dream
and hold hands as we walked
across the corzo cobbles


zlata named her daughter mariana
srce moj (my heart)
grew up an imitation americanka
but in a landscape painted small
with dinars instead of dollars
she met dejan on the corzo before a dance

mariana couldn’t help herself        fell for a serb
and dejan chose wrong blood        mariana        a croat
there was hatred in the village for kids like that
betrayers of kin
consorts of the enemy
damn fool pacifists
he should have shaved her hair        put her out on the street
she should have cut his throat in the middle of the night


I met zlata’s daughter        her dejan and their child
at a migrant place in dandenong

she told me it was better here
australians haven’t learned to wear
the look that gets etched into faces
from living with war

she said she was a little lonely
no-one from home comes to visit
but they leave messages on the outside wall:

no place here for a croatian-serb
no place here for a serbian-croat
no place here for people like you
go away        go away        become invisible

she said they would leave in the morning
to go to a far away town
where no-one knows where they come from
who they are        what they are
leave the war behind them
and find a place where their child will grow
without an accent
without a heritage
without knowing hate


when I last saw her
zlata’s daughter was wearing golden dice on a necklace
struggling with a new language full of strange words
and keeping up a job through difficult early times

I picture her now in my minds eye
walking with dejan and their daughter
on a dusty australian corzo
in a small town she calls moje oslobođenje

my escape to freedom

© Frank Prem, 2001


materinski jezik – the mother tongue

Frenk, tell me, why you not use
you mother language some more, hmmm?

You speak Australski, yes,
but this is not you mother tongue.
You mother tongue is Hrvatski,
you call him Croatia, no?
That is language you was born with
and you papa and mama speak him.
Why you no speak him more?
Why always Australski, Australski?

Yes, Frenk,
of course you not too lovely speaking him,
if you don’t get praksa, the practice,
how you can be speaking him good?

even you mama and you papa mix him up now,
with the Australski and the Hrvatski sve in jedan.

And your tetak iz Chermany, too? What he do?
Oh, he mix deutsch with the Hrvatski? Ha!
This mjeshanje of languages is no good.
I think svako, eh, everyone, should speak
mother language proper, no more mixing-ups.

Frenki, you go now to you grandma, to you oma,
and you speak her and you listen to her
to proper Hrvatski speaking – this beautiful language.
Maybe is something you can be learning.

What you saying, Frenk? Oma is mixing Australski, too?
Oh, joj!

© Frank Prem 2003, 2016


This is one of a series of poems I’ve written that make use of a ‘foreign’ or immigrant voice – Croatian-English in this case.

This is a voice that I grew up surrounded by, and there was a period of time when I was able to capture it for my poetic purposes.

I’ve had the good fortune to have a few of these pieces appear in publications of capture prizes from time to time. This piece – materinski jezik – was featured on the UNESCO site as their Poem of the Month, back in 2003.

Hope you enjoy reading the piece.

politika of the pipples

So! Frenk!
You are skippi or Evropski – from Europe?
Da, ja isto – me too – but you have lived here all life, yes?
I am only here few years.

What do you do? Oh, poet!
We have many poet in my country,
is long tradition, very politik, you know?
Telling pipples istina – the truth.
What you write?
What? Kako to? How can you no be writing politik
if you are poet?

Frenk, slu”saj – listen to me
when I was mlad “covjek – a young man
my country communist was. Eh, bastards.
We pipples no can say nothing, you know?
Every place bastard informer has, schools must learn
bloody communist. Je bempti, bastards!

It was poetry, it was stories, this was all we have,
za sje’canjufor the remembering.
You know this communist bastards, they want us to forget
who am we, who we have been, yes.
It was stories, pjesme – songs – you know,
they tell us, they tell our children, Frenk. They say
why do we exist, why are we proud, why we suffer.

Communisti, they make the smell, sve prljavo – everything dirty.
They are loud, like orchestra drums and trumpeti,
make noise too big for cello i violin, but is important –
if you have music ear – is important to listen
for little bit that violin. Sometimes when big noise bastard
is taking zrak – the breath – sometimes you can hear him.

This communisti was apocalypse for my pipples, you know?
Was poets, songs keep my pipple alive
inside their hearts where this bastards cannot touch.

Pa tako, jedan dan – so, one day, all sudden,
communisti are gone – pht! – no more.
But this violin, this poetry is playing after apocalypse.
Everyone can hear him now. Prekrasno
is very beautiful – and, is sound of our hearts.

So, Frenki boy, you are politik, yes.
You are violin in orchestra of big freedoms. Yes Frenk, you.
No, is not bullshit, is poets who will be left to play this –
kako se ka”ze – how you say him – is poets
who will be left to play the post-apocalyptic violin.

Yes Frenk, you are the politika of the pipples.

© Frank Prem (writing as Frank Faust) 2001