Willowra child: at the pool.

pool 1 linocutA little linocut from the trip to the Yuendumu pool

Fig tree fruits

If you repent,
the much-loved doctrine declares,
you will be forgiven.
A simple-enough transaction,
with the reception of forgiveness transmuted,
by divine alchemy, into the golden currency
of paradisiacal admittance. 

With much tears and wailing, repentance is enacted,
souls are pronounced saved,
and heaven’s host, we are told, prepares another room. 

But what if repentance is no mere turning point,
arrived at once and finally?
What if it is an attitude that grows, develops,
and manifests itself in actions;
many and uncounted, small and large;
with an impetus towards sharing and justice
and generosity and peace?
And what if the second chance grace
is all about such fruitfulness?

Fig tree fruits from plants worth their place
in the garden.

 © Ken Rookes 2013

The dogs of Willowra

The dogs of Willowra are without pedigree
and conform to no ideal size, shape, or colour,
They patter about in happy groups,
wandering freely; at home with both heat
and societal informality.
Now and again, a particularly clever
or dexterous dog finds its way into the schoolyard,
not understanding that such trespass never has been
and never will be permitted.
The delinquent canine is unfailingly gathered in
and escorted back to the gate,
where it is dismissed with the explanation,
that, despite the welcoming children,
this is a forbidden place.
The creature invariably accepts the ruling,
gives one of those doggish grins,
and lopes off.
This lesson is certain to be conveniently forgotten
when the next illegal opportunity arises.
The Willowra dogs are happy beasts;
they do not judge their masters,
and their masters do not judge them. 

© Ken Rookes 2013

Willowra is a remote Warlpiri community, about 350 km north-west of Alice Springs, in Central Australia 


The  keep-your-fingers-crossed Jesus
lurks behind my fears
and offers me a sort of hope.
Believe in me, he says;
it’s a simple formula,
and I’ll help you
to get the words right. 

This Jesus for the credulous
is brightly painted.
He tries to tell me
that everything that happens,
good and ill,
is part of a divine plan;
just keep smiling. 

Always there when a safe passage
is needed, he smiles benignly
with his fingers crooked.
He promises blessings
and reassurance,
forgives at the drop of a hat,
and is never outraged. 

Sometimes, in the screaming of the night,
I glimpse a different Jesus.
Less pretty, he is wild
like the man in the story
and more than slightly dangerous.
He carries pain in his face,
anger in his voice,

and love in his calloused hands.
This Jesus brings little
that might resemble comfort,
yet still speaks strangely of hope.
He offers no seat in paradise,
just a worrying invitation
to walk his way. 

© Ken Rookes 2013

Christ in the Wilderness: The hen

Stanley Spencer paints like a grounded angel;
his Jesus sprawls upon the earth
as one who is at home in the wilderness and humble.
His sad face broods distractedly
over the red hen gathering her precious chicks.
His thoughts will not be contained
within the picture’s frame.
At one with creation,
and aware of the complex threads
of interdependence between its creatures,
bird and insect, fox and fowl;
he understands darkly the pain and the dying
that are life’s unavoidable consequences.
When he departs, the hen will be on her own
and her brood vulnerable once more.
Ah, Jesus, you cannot be everywhere;
you will have to allow ‘nature, red in tooth and claw’*
to find her own balance;
and you will have to trust
that those whom you have called
will continue to weepingly reach with love
to Jerusalem’s waiting children, and all the others.

* In Memoriam A.H.H., a poem by Alfred. Lord Tennyson

© Ken Rookes

Love’s Courage

They are heroes,
the men, the women,
and all the children, too;
who stand up to the bullies.
Like Jesus, who refused to be intimidated
by Herod’s threats;
or Rosa Parks, defying centuries
of white superiority;
or Malala, Pakistan’s daughter,
standing her ground to confront Taliban misogyny.

There is a choice set before each of us,
the poet said: love and fear.*

Bullies are cowards, we are told,
and will flee in the face of resolute opposition.
But with the support of institutional wealth,
power, soldiers and guns,
the bullies may be blind to the scrawled messages
on their crumbling walls, and don’t always go quietly.
The raw ferocity of fear can be a terrible thing,
the consequences; dreadful.

 Our heroes,
and many more whose stories we may never hear,
knew what was right.
Driven by a vision of all  that might be,
they found the courage to live towards it.
Setting their sights upon the hoped-for goal,
refusing the temptations to avert their gaze
towards something simpler and less demanding,
they tread determinedly towards their Jerusalem..

 *Michael Leunig

© Ken Rookes 2013


Choose love over fear;
the alternative is emptiness.
Choose to be generous;
in giving there is much joy.
Choose to dance,
at least in your heart if your legs refuse.
Choose the way of truth; there will be a price,
but you will have no regrets.
Choose laughter over tears.
Where this is not possible, weep loudly
and unashamed.
Like a flower unfolding in the morning light,
choose life to the fullest.
Choose to compromise if you must;
but know what it is costing
Choose honour ahead of convenience,
sacrifice ahead of comfort.
Choose the cross, it is the way of hope.
Choose to sing and to shout,
to pray and to worship
Choose to take action;
all creation is waiting for you.
Choose wise wrinkles of age ahead of the
smooth-skinned folly of youth.
Life is never the final choice,
love is.

© Ken Rookes