a whole hour

Poem #24 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

settle down honey
we haven’t even started yet
you don’t want to fly
before we leave the ground
now do you

why don’t you just
hop in to the shower for me
like a love
while I fix some pillows
and a towel
my special oils
and essential equipment
or is that the other way around

you’ll like some of these

are you watching me
from in there
take a look at this

nice huh

now come on out
dry yourself off

lie down on your back a moment
while I take a little look at you

now I’ll just slip this on for you
hmmm you like that don’t you
I can tell


what would you like to do
to get us started

what would you like hon
no rush
we’ve got
a whole hour

© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #25: the idiot

towards kansas

Poem #23 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

he has listened to the story
of a wonderful life
a tragic affair

watched her eyes
welling tears that brimmed
but never broke
as she herself has not been been broken
though close
so very close

dorothy in a whirlwind
turning and contorting still
searching desperately for a way
to click heels together
while riding riding
and feeling every whipping lick
the twisted beast can lash at her

let there be a landing
but don’t make it too fast
just make it be there
in reach
when the moment comes

as she spoke
he could hear the elemental roar
feel it
touched by chill tremors
while swept along
in a small part of the journey
with her

and now it is done
she has told the tale
and gone
to face the next storm
already bellowing its presence
in her mind

the house is quiet again
the world outside the same as it was
the same as it always is

night has fallen
and he so restless


© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #24: a whole hour

katy’s scrubbing up

Poem #22 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

mama’s checking out the make-up
rummaging for things she hasn’t seen since
let’s say
they’ve been missing awhile
but she thinks she might know where to find them
they’ll be in katy’s room

katy’s scrubbing up tonight
glitter in her hair
she’s had the beauty parlour treatment
to look gorgeous
for the ball

cha cha cha

for dancing

fourteen years and six feet tall
slender as a model on the cat-walk
she’ll be black off the shoulder
pink in a shawl
a little colour on the cheeks
dark eye-liner
and yes
that’ll be the missing mascara

and the lipstick

those two will be gone awhile
it’s time for girl business
in the bedroom
but papa
have you charged the camera

because here she comes now
look at her would you
just look
we always knew
just look at her

strike a pose by the mantle shelf
underneath the painting we brought away
from grandma’s house
she might not approve of black
but she’d be just so proud of you
and happy

little brother please
remove yourself
this is not your picture
or your time
you’ll have to wait your turn

papa take katy now
it’s time she made her entrance

you won’t need to carry
the shotgun

she’ll be fine you know
she’s a big girl
still your baby
but she’ll be fine

he’ll be worried all night
fretting like a

like the father whose baby
is taking steps into the world
and away


keep him busy if you can
talk motor cars
help him do something with the radiator
or the carby
until one o’clock
or so

until she gets home

© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #23: towards kansas

identification from height

Poem #21 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction



shelter me from storms


there’s a monotony that comes
from living in the tree-lined
the leafy streets that promenade
all up and down
the smallness of this tiny town

a figure is at the bed
in a room in a house
leaning across to bathe
the brow of a restless soul
tossing and turning
running into fever
in the drenching of a torrid time

singing little snippets

underneath her breath
like a crooning angel
ministering by mouth
at a pace that surely surely
must bring deliverance


she sings

baby you’ll be fine

mama’s on the job

mama takes no prisoners
baby she’ll stop dragons
from sneaking in to take advantage
mama’s by your side

baby baby babe

maybe that isn’t what she said
she might have sung some song about
the sinking of a boat
in the middle of a flood
while she was bathing off the sweat

I only know the wind blew
and shook a leafy branch
or two
up against a window
of the house that hugged the street
in a small town
dressed in brick and wood disguises

that every place and every one
every tree that stood the kerb-sides
was like a replica
and rising above them
in heated levitation
through a fog that yielded to clarity of sight
and identification of the patterns
of the houses
the allotments
of the avenues
the straight and the winding roads

that there was nothing
to choose between them

they are all the same
when you see them from the sky
when you kiss them all
and wave
stretching out your hand           your fingers
for goodbye

except for one place where a woman
reaching with a washer
croons in a low voice
singing you back
to where you are the one
truly the only one

baby baby
I’m calling you a way 
whispering the path

baby come on home


© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #22: katy’s scrubbing up

socks to tell no tales

Poem #20 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

it is a sock

a grey school-sock
from one of the boys
on the mat outside the front door


herd the boys in
set the packages down
start the kettle
a cup of tea and then
the window is open
not much
but open

it wasn’t left like that

to the bedroom

from the bedside cupboard
huddled on the floor

another sock

drawers open
the bed oddly angled
some things look different
some the same

the lounge room

empty CD holder

the spare bedroom

no lap-top
game-boy and DVDs gone
a backpack
unable to be accounted

mess on the floor

nothing broken
just mess
a vague awareness of absence


send the boys to the neighbors
check all the rooms
under beds
in cupboards
never mind what’s gone
make sure no-one is there

call the police
no tidying till they get there
only a few hours

learn that socks
eliminate fingerprints
the backpack carries the take
this happens
all the time
there is no danger
don’t forget to do the insurance
in the morning

put it out of your mind
go to bed

rest easy

© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #21: identification from height


Poem #19 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

she was at the bar with a friend
when he bowled up to say hello
larger than life after all these years
full of bounce

told all that had happened to him
marriages divorces children work play
all in the space of a breath
how wonderful it was to see her
she looked good
have to run
see you again soon maybe

all in the space of a breath that left her without air

so many years

he had left the town young
heard of every blue moon or so
glimpsed in the street sometimes on a family visit

as children they had played
gone to school
kissed on a new year’s eve once
might have grown close but probably wouldn’t have
and then he was gone
into memory
and the wide blue yonder

she had stayed local
worked local
married local
divorced local
under the local eye
a life lived small and contained
but enough

it’s only on days like these
up early to open the shop
to sort papers and stock before the first customers
days like these
with his pleasure at seeing her and his humor
his stories
still bouncing inside her head
she wonders
if it really is enough

if it ever was

© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #20: socks to tell no tales

he would have preferred ribbons

Poem #18 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

but opportunities for ribbons
were few

he thought about other kinds of clasp
holders of one kind
and another
but they wouldn’t do
didn’t convey

in the end
it was rubber bands
thick red ones
slim and stretchy brown
sad yellow

the rubber bands
holding his letters in neat arrangement
collected in their ones and twos
each evening when he checked the mail

even if it was only
a few bills
or a couple of pamphlets
a rubber band brought the news
held the words

he rolled them away from the envelopes
placed them in a kitchen drawer
one band on top of another
one pile beside the next

opened the drawer
every night
from monday through friday
not to disturb
added the newest band
to the latest pile

one day
when she comes
she will see them
and understand

make it
to collect them

© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #19: enough

when she walked it was a saunter

Poem #17 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

she was humming in the bathroom
the kind of hum that made him think
she’s happy
he drew his mind back to the paper
something said about the world
about the state
about the town
something said
about the neighborhood

she stepped across the room
and he noted when she walked
it was a saunter
the way a model on a catwalk might
to draw attention
to the length of her legs
beneath the towel
she wore high
an armful of blanket
and the two pillows
she leaned to lay out on the floor
in an arrangement

a set of     look at me     languid half-steps
across the room
to press a button
that filled the air with music
then a sashay
that threw away his paper
grasped his hand
brought him to his feet
so she could dance

he watched the dreaminess
in her eyes
as she swayed
drops of water
still beaded on her shoulders
from the shower

felt heat
rising from her body
drew her close to fit him
turned her around
on their dance-floor
and as the music hit crescendo
they stopped
she wore the special taste on her lips
folded further into his arms
and with the surrender of the towel
he fell in love

all over again


it seemed just a moment
but the sun had gone
afternoon had wandered into evening
while they lay with each other
another day
had disappeared

into night

© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #18: he would have preferred ribbons

the man who knew

Poem #16 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

he could tell when he touched the door

there had been no signs
no clues or expectations
but the moment the hand that held the key
came in contact with the door
he knew

perhaps an absence of vibration
or a hollowness
seeping from around the edges of the door-frame
perhaps nothing
who knows how the senses intuit or infer

he stopped
with the key halfway into the lock
and wondered if he should retrace his steps
get back into the car
return to work for an hour
then start out for home again
but that wouldn’t change anything

he knew


when a voice speaks into silence
it can jar      sound over-loud
but in a moment
the emptiness will assert itself
and reply with a touch
on the shoulder
a shiver along the spine

footsteps echo
like a cathedral funeral
reverent and ominous
while familiar objects
become mysterious messengers
mutely trying to communicate
matters of great moment
if only

great matters of if only

and the scan of these once-familiars
leads inevitably
to the new item
the one supported
by cut-glass salt and pepper shakers
gifted on the big day
so long ago

a stark white rectangle
with his name
addressed in the tell-tale loops
that once suggested open fields
and laughter

it beckons


the quiet can be a companion
when any noise would be an intrusion
in the hours past darkness
spent thinking
and wondering

so many possibilities to consider
so many ruled improbable
by the fact of the envelope
thinking the worst
dismissing the benign
reviewing all that he knows and can recall

deep in an armchair
in the dark
the only sound
rhythmic tapping
of an unopened communication
against a twitching leg

he cannot work it out
in his mind
but he knows

he just knows

© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #17: when she walked it was a saunter

untitled – a

Poem #15 from The Book of Evenings

Back to: The Book of Evenings – Introduction

I know it’s crazy
but she was the first one that I saw
in oh so long
I almost fell right there on the spot
wanted to ask her
to touch me
had to fight to hold back my hands

from reaching out
to stroke her skin
I knew
what I’d feel
like she had an aura
and I had an aura
as though
we were meant to come together
but I
I wonder what she’s doing now
if she felt the thing
that I did
I never asked her
never spoke
I never saw her again
but I think about that feeling
and wonder

I work my way to nighttime
and I wonder

© Frank Prem 2003

The Book of Evenings Poem #16: the man who knew