Even the dogs

Weary from the crowds,
he slipped across the border for a break.
A holiday with a few close friends,
up north among the foreigners.
Different people, culture, food.
Best of all, no one knows him here.

The woman’s love
has grown achingly to despair;
such is her daughter’s illness.
Her dormant hopes quicken
when she learns the identity
of the stranger from the south.

Disregarding his request for privacy,
she intrudes, insisting that he intervene
to heal her child.
His response disappoints.
Wrong race, wrong religion.

The man offers a domestic metaphor to justify
his lack of compassion.
Sorry, I can’t help;
the food is for the children, not the dogs.

It takes our breath away.
Suddenly we hear the shrill, cheering voices
of the xenophobes, islamophobes, flag wearers,
shock jocks and opportunistic politicians.

But the story continues;
this foreign woman does not know her place.
She accepts the racial calumny,
but, with impertinence,
throws the image back at the teacher:
Yes, but even the dogs . . .

Even the dogs.
The woman, he concedes, is correct.
There are no boundaries to love
except the ones we fashion from our fears.
The man accepts his lesson with grace,
and setting aside his weariness,
offers her the crumb.

 

© Ken Rookes 2017

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Nothing I can do

Haiku of learning

Wrong race and wrong creed.
The man puts the woman off
when she asks for help.

Nothing I can do;
the food is for the children,
it’s not for the dogs.

That is so, she says,
but even dogs may consume
table scraps that fall.

Good point, says Jesus,
You got me! Your faith is strong;
your daughter is healed.

 

© Ken Rookes 2017

They have Moses and the prophets

Haiku for closed eyes.

Poor man Lazarus,
by the gate, covered with sores;
we walk right past him.

The unnamed rich man,
dressed in purple, fine linen,
feasting ev’ry day.

Discarded food scraps
do not reach the rich man’s gate
or the beggar there.

Empathy fails us.
Please don’t disturb our comfort.
Make the beggars leave.

Death comes to us all.
Rich or poor, it matters not;
was your life worthwhile?

Where are your riches;
From where will your comfort come
when your life has passed?

Send me Lazarus,
or let him warn my brothers
that they might be saved.

That’s not how it works.
Let them listen to Moses,
and the prophets too

We’d rather not know.
Even when it’s God who speaks,
we do not listen.

 

© Ken Rookes 2016

 

Prejudice

The Bible,
that most ancient collection of writings,
esteemed by some and held sacred by others,
includes traces of racism and religious prejudice.
More than a few fragments,
if we’re able to admit it.
Its stories include a powerful foundational myth
asserting a nation’s superiority
as God’s chosen people;
making the avoidance of such prejudiced conclusions
somewhat problematic.
Occasionally a reckless prophet- type person
came along to question that myth;
they were generally pointed
in the direction of the door.
It is still so.
Even Jesus, the travelling teacher from the north,
seems to have been comfortable enough
with established opinion on this matter.
It took some time,
together with the insistent and intrusive pleadings
of a desperate foreign woman;
but at last, we are pleased to say,
his metaphorical copper coin loosened,
and finally dropped.

© Ken Rookes 2014

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 

Insistent

The early-hour low rumblings
of B-doubles passing the edge
of the Broken Hill caravan park
are interspersed by the intrusive sounds
of distant caterwauling.
The flimsy canvas of our camper-trailer
provides no effective barrier
to the wailings of the smug creatures
desperate to advertise their proximity
and hoping to find partners to their lusts.
Disapproving dogs
offer their puritanical barkings
to command the cats’ silence.
The canines rule,
but only for a moment;
the needs are insistent.

© Ken Rookes 2012