Thursday, December 29, 2011

The wise men meet the separation wall

yeats poem

The three-fold terror of love: a fallen flare
Through the hollow of an ear;
Wings beating about the room
The terror of all terrors that I bore
The Heavens in my womb.
Had I not found content among the shows
Every common woman knows,
Chimney corner, garden walk,
Or rocky cistern where we tread the clothes
And gather all the talk?
What is this flesh I purchased with my pains,
This fallen star my milk sustains,
This love that makes my heart's blood stop
Or strikes a sudden chill into my bones
And bids my hair stand up?
-W.B. Yeats 1865-1939

Mary Oliver: The ponds

Mary Oliver:
 The Ponds
… Still what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled-
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing-
that the light is everything-that it is more than
the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and fading-and I do.
I want to believe that the light is everything-
And I do.

The light shines in the darkness

An image painted on the wall enclosing the Palestinians

Now that's an epiphany!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

How Long?

Advent’s aching cries

are answered liturgically

by Christmas’s declaration

that the Christ is born among us.

It is a momentary reply;

by New Year the complaint has been renewed

as we mark the passing and the weepings

of another twelve months.

The world still waits.

In comfortable lands people are encouraged

to make worthy resolutions

towards a better future,

usually for themselves;

while corporate and national intentions

seem incapable of positive resolve.

The wealthy still cleave to their riches

while the poor are bought and sold;

resources are hoarded;

fearful armies are marshalled and deployed;

and involuntary wanderers search in vain

for a welcoming embrace.

The planet grows warm and sad

while clever fools peddle their fearful doctrines

to ensnare their eager acolytes.

How long?

We cry once more, and again,

as we face a further fifty-two weeks

wherein our tears will swell to a flood

to carry our relaunched supplications

floating before the Almighty.

With this fragile hope we seek

that the God Who Comes will take notice;

and that our yearnings might be echoed

in divine spirit, and find substance

in our breath.

© Ken Rookes 2011

Simeon’s dream

The Lord God has blessed me with the gift of years;

along with the gift of tears.

Do not presume that we old ones

desire mere comfort and quiet;

while I am permitted to stand upon the earth

I will seek God’s salvation,

the fulfilment of God’s outrageous promises.

I watch the children at their games with the hope

that their joyful dancing will never cease,

that their songs may echo through the hills,

even though civilizations collapse

and great buildings crumble.

I dream of truth,

and of justice blended with grace;

of prisoners restored, rejoicing, to their families.

I yearn for the day when soldiers

will return to their villages,

to take brides, beget children,

and plant olive trees.

I cry for the quiet dignity of the poor

in their hunger and desperation.

I pray for the generosity of spirit

which alone reveals the greatness of a nation.

You told me, God, that I would live to see

your Messiah. Today, in the temple,

there was a couple from the north,

with their new son,

come to make their offering.

The infant’s hand gripped my wrinkled finger;

I laughed, I wept, I shouted a blessing,

and then I gave him my dreams.

© Ken Rookes

Saturday, December 24, 2011

One Word

One divine word;

a whispered murmur on the lips of shepherds,

sung sublimely by a choir of angels,

and written in straw:


© Ken Rookes

The Colours of Christmas

In the other half of the world

where December grows cold and icy,

the holly bush speaks of defiant life;

green and red

in the midst of winter’s white death.

The colours of Christmas.

Green for life and growth,

red for life and blood,

white for the hope that the darkness will end.

The colours of God’s surprising journey

among us humans, touching hearts

and minds with the generous red,

gracious green,

and merciful white; promises of hope,

intimations of joy,

and the blessings of peace.

Continue, Lord,

your strange journey

through human strife and struggles,

to colour our lives with the reds, the greens

and the white of your coming.

Meanwhile, in this half of the world,

where December grows hot and steamy

and the light is bleaching bright,

the flowering gum in my nature-strip

bursts exultantly into green and red;

the colours of Christmas.

© Ken Rookes

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Adoration of the Roadworkers

Ken Rookes
Oil Painting 2005

The Holy Family

Ken Rookes
Linocut, 2008

Part of the Jesus and the Goths series.

Shepherd Dreaming

Shepherds, shepherds, sheep, sheep;

in the hills, there they sleep.

There they sleep, ready to wake

should the world around them shake.

There they dream, taking flight

upon the stillness of the night;

dreams of hope, and dreams of wonder

dreams of worlds torn asunder;

dreams of places friendly, warm,

of colours bright, of darkening storm;

dreams of tears, songs and laughter

dreams of life and what comes after;

dreams of parties, wine and food,

fearful dreams and dreams of good;

dreams of beauty, dreams of peace,

yearning that the strife should cease;

dreams of moon and stars of night,

of waiting for the dawning light;

dreams of aging, dreams of youth,

dreams of searching, dreams of truth.

So the dreams continue long

into the night, until a song,

soft with beauty, loud with love,

interrupting from above,

calls dreamers back; back to earth

and dust, announcing human birth.

A child is here, amidst the straw,

a humble birth, unnoticed, poor;

here love divine has come to dwell:

come and see, then go and tell!

© Ken Rookes

The stable

Strangers are smiling,

it must be Christmas.

We wish each other well,

and wonder where the year has gone.

In recent years some houses,

seeking to upstage their neighbours,

have burst into twinkling light

with trees, bearded gentlemen

and flying reindeer; some

even affect a religious interest.

Others remain with blinds drawn,

meditating in the dark stillness.

Perhaps, deep within their recesses,

and inmost crevices, these houses

have heard the story of the child

born to rule over all creation

with humble love. Maybe

they dream of the stable,

the unassuming shed, chosen

ahead of other dwellings.

It has become an exalted place

where poor people, dumb animals,

and the almighty God

find their home.

© Ken Rookes

Saturday, December 17, 2011

A war on Christmas

(this is a US Article so i have transposed 'Nine News' for 'Fox News' you could also substitute the Herald Sun or other newspapers or commercial TV stations)

Each Advent in recent years,, Nine News launches its (allegedly) defensive campaign commonly known as the “War on Christmas.”

Nine News’ “war” is designed to criticize the “secularization” of our culture wrought by atheists, agnostics, liberals, leftists, and progressives. This irreligious coalition force is allegedly waging a strategic offensive on Christmas, trying to banish the sacred symbols of the season, denying our religious heritage, and even undermining the spiritual rubrics upon which our great nation is built.

Nine News positions itself as the defender of the faith and all things sacred. ...
and yet

The real Christmas announces the birth of Jesus to a world of poverty, pain, and sin, and offers the hope of salvation and justice.

The Nine News Christmas heralds the steady promotion of consumerism, the defense of wealth and power, the adulation of money and markets, and the regular belittling or attacking of efforts to overcome poverty.

The real Christmas offers the joyful promise of peace and the hope of reconciliation with God and between humankind.

Nine News Christmas proffers the constant drumbeat of war, the reliance on military solutions to every conflict, the demonizing of our enemies, and the gospel of American dominance.

The real Christmas lifts up the Virgin Mary’s song of praise for her baby boy: “He has brought the mighty down from their thrones, and lifted the lowly, he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich empty away.”

The Nine News Christmas would label Mary’s Magnificat as “class warfare.”

So if there is a war on Christmas it's the one being waged by Nine News.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Ken Rookes 2011

Madonna and Child

Handcoloured Drypoint,
tweaked on computer.

The son of the Most High God

The son of the Most High God

sits upon an elusive throne;

his reign resembles more joke than substance.

The house of Jacob appears to have forgotten him;

if they ever recognised his reign

in the first place.

There are any number of seats of power

upon which he might have been installed

by his eager acolytes:

Washington, Rome, Beijing, Brussels,

Canberra; (sorry, I couldn’t help myself!)

– but he seemed uninterested.

It would have proven a futile effort anyway;

he failed to sell himself, didn’t seem

to grasp the basic requirements

of the job. If you expect to rule

then you need the right power-base,

and the best he could do

was point to an incongruous crew,

the members of which didn’t seem

to have made any real advances

with the passing of two millennia.

He spoke in riddles about his ancestor, David,

and a throne that would endure.

When we pressed for some details

he gave an idiot grin

and muttered something about the weak,

forgotten and desperate ones;

those who sail in fragile wooden boats,

who camp sadly behind barbed wire,

who dwell in shabby boarding houses,

or caravan parks, and who occupy

public squares and plazas.

As if these counted for anything

when it comes to the serious matter

of might and thrones and power;

and kingdoms that are said to have no end.

© 2011 Ken Rookes.


Ken Rookes, Linocut 2008
(From the Jesus and the Goths series)

Angel’s message

You can smell the fear, almost taste it

in the television pictures of riots,

and on talk-back wireless;

the end of civilization as we know it.

If only we could go back

to the cream-picket-fenced,

white Christian Australia

of those pre-coloured

box-camera photographs,

and dwell there, secure and unthreatened.

Interrupting rudely

in this season of Advent,

we hear the promise of new things

unheard of revolutionary promises,

the lifting up of the poor and humble.

Then come the amazing words

from the lips of God’s angel messenger

to a young teenaged girl

who is about to experience

the end of her predictable world

with an unplanned pregnancy;

accompanied by all the shame

and potential violence

of her fiercely legalistic religion.

They echo through the next three decades,

and the two millennia that follow,

calling the faithful to a life of defiance:

“You don’t have to be afraid!”

© Ken Rookes

Monday, December 5, 2011

There was a man sent from God

Can’t allow too much expectation
or ferment among the people!
Things may get out of hand,
as any number of Arab nation leaders,
living, dead or vanquished, might testify
in this tumultuous year.
Best to keep the lid on it.

It was no different in Palestine
a couple of millennia earlier.
A wild and half-crazy man
set up camp by a watercourse
and began to affect the prophet
with his excited and revolutionary utterances;
“Repent!” he shouted.
Quickened by the traces of hope
they heard in his voice,
crowds flocked to listen.
Perhaps the shadows in their souls,
might become faded, at least a little,
in the words, the water and the sun.

And so, according to the fourth gospel-writer,
priests and Levites are sent from the city
to interrogate the Baptiser.
“Who,” they demand, “do you think you are?”
After replying with an unsatisfying trio of
“I am not-s,” he is pressed
to identify himself as a voice,
a harbinger of turbulent times.
He speaks of another;
through whom the true revolution
will find its inception;
one who, like it or not,
is surely coming.

© 2011 Ken Rookes


The song could be sung boisterously

and in harmony, were they so inclined,

by Karl Marx, Che Guevara, Ho Chi Minh

and any other revolutionary leader;

telling, as it does, of capital’s masters

getting their come-uppance

and despotic rulers being called to account;

whilst the poor and the humble

are gently elevated to their place of reward.

But hundreds of years before they could ever

form their á capella chorus, the song

is placed by gospel-writer Luke

on the lips of the girl-woman

from Nazareth, as she deals hopefully

with the prospect of impending motherhood.

Was Mary a revolutionary?

Did she have any idea of the unsettling

implications of her unplanned-for pregnancy?

Could she have ever guessed the trembling

that would be induced by these

troublesome words, as, freed from

popular sentimental accretions,

they reverberate through the centuries

to unease those who worship power,

wealth and comfort?

Probably not;

she seemed to leave the politics to her son.

But here it is: a graffiti spray song

of promise to confront respectable walls;

an outrageous cry in the dark

to call forth the glimpsed but ever distant dawn,

for which we are still waiting.

© Ken Rookes

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Che Jesus

Che Jesus
They told me that you came back to be born every Christmas.
Man, you're crazy!

... with this stubborn gesture of coming back every Christmas
you are trying to tell us something:

That the revolution that all proclaim begins first of all in
each one's heart,
That it doesn't mean only changing structures but changing
selfishness for love,
That we have to stop being wolves and return to being
brothers and sisters,
That we… begin to work seriously for
individual conversion and social change
that will give to all the possibility of having bread,
education, freedom, and dignity.

That you have a message that's called the Gospel,
And a Church, and that's us--
A Church that wants to be servant of all,
A Church that knows that because God became human
one Christmas
there is no other way to love God but to love all people.
If that's the way it is, Jesus, come to my house this Christmas,
Come to my country,
Come to the world of men and women.
And first of all, come to my heart.

Anonymous, Cordoba, Argentina, at Christmas, 1970
From Imaging the Word: An Arts and Lectionary Resource, Volume 3

Monday, November 28, 2011

Dressed for action

Not until the end of the story,

when he is stripped of his dignity

and fixed violently to his cross,

do Jesus’ garments

momentarily take centre-stage.

In the story of the Baptiser

we are told at the outset

how he appeared before his public:

in camel hair and with a belt of leather.

Hardly the apparel of polite

and fashionable society,

but what we might expect

of such a wild and uncomfortable man

plying his strange calling

with hot and disconcerting words.

I wonder, did camel hair kept his body warm

during cold desert nights

among the rocks and lizards

when his followers had returned home?

The one who came after him

was no ascetic, his clothing was perhaps

less prickly, but only a little less shabby.

His words, too, were never really popular;

they challenged and disturbed,

shining light unexpectedly into long dark corners.

But some listened deeply.

Laying hold of hope,

they cast off their fearful robes

and danced.

© Ken Rookes

The grass withers, the flower fades

The embalmers are merely the last

of a comprehensive list

of skilled experts and practitioners

who are employed to prompt,

poke, prod, probe, inject, abrade, cut,

suck, enhance, colour, manipulate and lie

in order to refute,

or at least delay, the mortal transience

that we acknowledge, reluctantly,

will one day find us. Such a frantic denial.

Others have resorted to constructing edifices

designed to carry their name into perpetuity;

a memorial, monument, endowment,

perhaps even the façade of a building

bearing that name chiselled in stone

and pretending that stone itself

will not one day be reduced to dust.

Superficially effective,

in truth these merely declare

that a person once lived,

but does so no longer.

Great wealth, achievement, fame

and even notoriety may carry memory

to new generations,

but, for the most, these things, too,

are fleeting and will pass.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

or so the prophet tells us;

leaving one thing that lasts forever.

This eternal word from God,

strange and elusive,

is spoken to confound, contradict, challenge,

and sometimes to annoy.

It neither withers nor fades,

and it will not go away.

© Ken Rookes 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

The end is nigh

Apocalypse 4

Apocalypse 4 2003

Apocalypse now

The word apocalypse simply means to reveal, to uncover, and if facing reality brings us despair, we need to ask why. Above all, we must reject the literalist notion that apocalyptic literature is about a future pie in the sky. It is a command to come to full attention in the here and now. And that is hard to do. Last year one advertisement for a beaded handbag costing thousands of dollars featured a model with her eyes closed, looking beautiful but comatose, as the words "Comfort and Joy" blazed across the page. Let’s keep our own eyes open, and as we prepare to sing of comfort and joy this year, let’s look for them where they may be found.

Therefore, keep awake

The sun it will be darkened

the moon won’t give its light,

the stars will fall from heaven,

the days will be as night.

The Son of Man’s descending,

they say he’s coming near.

These verses, strange to comprehend;

perhaps by now he’s here.

The pictures show him in the clouds

a-coming through the skies;

while he looks upon the faces

he sees through the disguise.

They say he’ll soon be present,

they say to read the signs,

the fig tree and the heavens;

we still can’t tell the times.

His words are here for telling;

the truth, it won’t be sold.

There are no buyers out there;

love’s latte has grown cold.

The planet waits its lovers;

the reserve has not been reached.

The walls have been erected large;

one day they will be breached

You say that you’ve been waiting,

your lamp is filled with oil;

the ocean’s growing warmer

while your hands are free of soil.

And the arrows keep on flying,

and the boats still run aground;

and no-one seems to listen,

while lies and wrongs abound.

And still the faithful servants wait;

truth and justice guide them.

They’ll not be silenced, not be still;

while love and anger drive them.

Faith isn’t in the coming,

or in judgement’s promise – threat;

in the doing, loving, waiting:

proof that faith's not finished yet.

© Ken Rookes 2011
consider this a work in progress. I thought I'd put it out there and see where it took me - Ken

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Prophet makes the strangers welcome

Etching and aquatint 2011.

Part of The Prophet Series of Intaglio prints.
Other images can be viewed at

Go to Print Gallery

The storm

Haiku of stillness After a long day telling stories, parables, Jesus needs a break. Suggests a boat trip. Let us cross the lake; ...