Thursday, December 29, 2011
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
… 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
of each flawed blossom rising and fading-and I do.
I want to believe that the light is everything-
And I do.
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
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.
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
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
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,
and merciful white; promises of hope,
intimations of joy,
and the blessings of peace.
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
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
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
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. ...
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
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.
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
and dwell there, secure and unthreatened.
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
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Monday, December 5, 2011
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?
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