Sad Monarch Herod

Haiku of the powerful and the small

Sad monarch Herod
like his father before him,
achieved infamy.

Pathetic ruler
easy to manipulate,
a slave to his lusts.

John the baptiser
never could keep his mouth shut,
incurred royal wrath.

Herod’s vengeful wife,
Herodias, took offence
at his denouncements.

Cast into prison,
John was forced to bide his time.
Herod still feared him.

The stepdaughter danced
at Herod’s party. Sexy;
the men all lusted.

Whatever you want,
the king had said. Then give me
the Baptiser’s head.

The king grieves deeply,
not foreseeing this outcome,
but he has been caught.

A bloody triumph
on a platter. She, in turn,
gives it to mother.

John’s disciples hear,
and come to claim his body;
bury him with love.

© Ken Rookes 2018


I will not dance with Miriam

I will not dance with Miriam
nor sing her triumph song.

The winners have written
their history; victorious

but confronting.
Scrape away its many layers:

racism, nationalism, vengeance,
religious superiority, triumphalism,

indiscriminate killing,
no thought for the bereaved.

Not much grace,
even less forgiveness;

and the Almighty is conscripted
to justify the hatred.

It could be set in Palestine,


I will not dance with Miriam,
nor sing her triumph song.


© Ken Rookes 2014

We wailed and you did not mourn

The truth, so called,
has become difficult to grasp,
perhaps impossible.
We make do with what we know;
on occasions we remind ourselves
that there may be much more to it
than we can ever conceive.

We hear distant strains,
with rhythms that call to us.
We hesitate, uncertain
of what is being asked,
and frightened.
We choose not to dance.

We hear groanings,
inconvenient cries
of abandonment and despair.
We are comforted by their distance,
having banished then from our presence.
We cover the sounds quickly
with clever choruses of pleasant songs.

The wails recede;
but refuse to be silent.
They persist to disturb and frighten.
We begin to wonder if, perhaps,
the suffering might be greater
than we can conceive;
but we still choose not to mourn.

© Ken Rookes 2014

Resurrection Dance

Resurrection Dance
Waiting for the bridegroom

Waiting for redemption,
waiting for the sun
to rise up in the morning
shine warmth on everyone.
Shivering in the darkness
of the isolating night
longing for the mystery one
step forward into light.

Waiting for the gospel
the one that says good news:
the one that laughs into the dawn
embracing all the hues.
The rising sun is pregnant
with hope and expectation
The night is gone, the day has come
and now the celebration.

Waiting for the life-word
to put an end to war.
Love’s self-revealing mercy
shall even up the score.
The bitter thoughts are banished
along with cruel hate,
with harmony allowed to rule
let’s hope it’s not too late.

Waiting for our sisters,
here come the brothers too,
along with all the children
who know what they must do.
With open arms, and minds and hearts
they dance the night away.
They sing out loud and clap their hands;
the life is here to stay.

Waiting for the army
as it comes around the bend;
the ones who march for justice.
a kingdom without end.
They take commands from no one,
at least not here on earth.
Their general is the peaceful Prince
who gives the world its birth.

Waiting for the white dove
the Spirit soaring low,
to light the heart with wonder
and to burn inside the soul.
The promise long ago declared,
the hope from ages past:
fulfilled in resurrection’s breath
and resurrection’s gasp.

Waiting for the message
of peace for evermore,
with love’s consideration
released from heaven’s store.
God’s children work to make it real,
they know it won’t come cheaply;
that things worthwhile are worth the pain
of life that don’t run neatly.

Waiting for the truth-song
to be sung by all the people,
the truth-bells will be ringing
from every church and steeple.
Inside the heart, within the soul
the truth will burn so bright;
each one will strive to live by love,
each one will know what’s right.

Waiting for the Saviour,
the one they tried to kill,
the one they hanged upon a cross;
his hands are reaching still.
There was one surprise to come,
it surprises to this day.
Just when we thought that death had won,
Life has the final say.

Waiting for the risen one
who comes to wipe all tears,
to sing the song of joy and love
and drive away the fears.
He laughs with life, he scoffs at death,
he calls the faithful on:
Come, join the dance of risen life,
the journey and the song!

© Ken Rookes

Half a kingdom


In this sad, sordid

and anything but edifying story

a lusting, leering and utterly laughable

monarch makes himself a fool

for the sake of his drunken urges.

Half a kingdom, ha!

he never had a realm of his own to give away

save that which his Roman overlords

allowed him to administer. He is smitten

by the no doubt charms of his dancing

stepdaughter, (in fact the daughter

of the niece that he has acquired as a wife,

but that is too complicated by another half!)

As the story goes, the pathetic king

paints himself into the naked corner

that will become a pitiful but convenient

excuse for murder.

The tale might elicit much ribald jesting

were it being told anywhere else

other than the holy gospel scriptures;

but here it stands as a solemn remembrance

of human weakness;

of overheated sexuality, power and abuse,

of masculine wretchedness

and of feminine duplicity and intrigue.

And, of course, the need for us all

to find deliverance.


© Ken Rookes