A handful of words


Where would we be
without a tough doctrine
of crime and punishment?
How could order and civilization
and polite society survive,
except that the wicked should receive
desserts that are just?
Thus fear is ensconced as the
handmaiden of justice;
do the wrong thing
and pay the price for your transgressions,
commit the crime and do the time.
Mercy, therefore,
is a risk;
a danger to good order and stability.
Too much mercy and they will assume
that they can get away with it next time;
(human nature being what it is).
So, just when we think
that we have it all worked out,
the Almighty, anthropomorphised
as a loving parent,
confounds his/her own logic
to wave the grace banner
with tender images and a handful of words:
I am God and not mortal,
I will not come in wrath.
© Ken Rookes


Nearly seven decades ago
a cloud hung horrible
before finally distributing Hiroshima’s  toxic dust,
Nagasaki’s too, between the four winds;
who dutifully dispersed it
among the planet’s oceans,
forests and deserts and cities.
Violence is not so easily eliminated,
its half-life is long;
the ghost-cloud of cruelty lingers
and expands with each season
of corruption and war.
The ghost-cloud continues its cold journey
drawing earth’s violent excesses
and storing them in cavernous shelves:
the smoke from death ovens,
the cries of the tortured,
the wails of women brutalised,
the tears of children abused,
the scandal of holy wars and crusades,
the shame of detention centres
and politics.
The ghost-cloud feeds upon misery.
Gloating, it mocks good people,
and gives succour to the powers of darkness.
Only defiant prayings,
Yearnings, weepings and seekings
seem to diminish the cloud’s shadow.
These, along with occasional acts
of kindness, grace and peace, ascend
to erode the cloud at its edges,
and to bring hope.
© Ken Rookes 2013

Building bigger barns

Dwelling in the frantic phoniness
that fills the weeks between the calling
of the election and the voting,
we are confronted by the various
parties’ priorities for building bigger barns.
We shall gather to ourselves
and lock away for the fearful future
those things that make us rich,
that we value above all else.
We shall erect a barn for the borders
that must be desperately protected
from people who voyage in boats; poor, fearful,
and as wretched as the vessels to which they
have entrusted their lives and their hopes.
Wealth shall be gathered into silos and defended
against the ravages of responsibility
that might see it paying for the big clean-up
that everybody knows will have to come. One day.
There shall be a separate, sheltered barn
for leaders afraid of making decisions
that might prove to be unpopular,
lest they no longer enjoy the favour of the people.
This is democracy, and it has its own barn,
galvanized and gleaming in the sun.
There is also a barn, full and overbursting
with responsible economic policies,
that all of our leaders are required
to visit regularly, to establish
their correct credentials, or else
we will not place a number low enough
in the boxes beside their names.
They say that there is a barn, somewhere,
that holds the nation’s store
of compassion, truth and justice.
It is apparently a small barn and there are
no proposals to build a larger one; besides,
its GPS coordinates
are believed to have been mislaid.

© Ken Rookes


You tell your kids as they grow older;
anytime, it does not matter.
We do not measure inconvenience,
nor will we mention it again.
We will leave our bed and we will come,
if that is what is needed,
to ensure that you will arrive safely home.
It is unthinkable that we should refuse.
Unthinkable, in the story Jesus told,
that a friend should decline
to embrace a minor inconvenience
for the sake of a simple request,
to fulfil the claims of hospitality
and to avoid shame.
Thus is delivered
bread for a hungry traveller.
Unthinkable that the Creator-Spirit God
should be too busy to listen,
should fail to love,
or should withhold
God’s Spirit-presence.
© Ken Rookes 2013