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

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Tales of wonder

Haiku of uncertain destination.

The tale is dodgy,
its historicity doubtful,
but still we wonder.

Driven by a dream
they seek the child of promise,
born to be a king.

They came from the east,
a vague description, at best;
those men of wisdom.

No maps, GPS,
their star takes them all the way
to Jerusalem.

They call on Herod;
(where else would you find a prince
but in a palace?)

Herod takes advice,
sends them off to Bethlehem;
asks to stay informed.

The child is threatened
by this late development.
God’s plans are at risk.

Finding the infant
they offer their gifts: the gold,
frankincense and myrrh.

The gifts are laden
with meaning and importance
for a future king.

Having paid homage,
the pilgrims return eastward,
give Herod a miss.

The nations have seen,
the threat will be overcome;
the story rolls on.

 

© Ken Rookes 2017

Jesus before Herod: a haiku sequence

A king called Herod
looks down from his lofty throne;
he has the power.

He smiles, curious,
having heard rumours and tales;
wonders if they’re true.

He requests a sign;
but the man stands silently
and gives him nothing.

The monarch persists,
hearing the accusations,
asks: What do you say?

No words are spoken.
Jesus stands before the king,
waits for the next step.

Treated with contempt,
he is robed, mocked and dismissed.
Your problem, Pilate.

 

 

© Ken Rookes 2016.

 

Silenced

In the fears and uncertainties of first century Jewish politics
an insecure monarch lusts after the niece
who also doubles as his step-daughter.
At a birthday banquet,
the girl entices the gathered dignitaries
with a dance.
Arousing, provocative,
teasing and taunting;
she knows how to shake it.

In the old man’s fantasy foolishness
half a kingdom is offered
as the prize for his pleasant titillation.
A prophet’s head,
severed from its outspoken owner’’s body
and proffered upon a platter,
is the price prescribed
by the girl’s vengeful mother.

A king’s self-importance is never a small thing.
His ego expands even further
in the presence of multiple weighty witnesses;
the offending voice will be silenced.
For good.

It’s been all about power, lust, politics, pride, and retribution.
Between them, over the next two millennia and beyond,
these evils will account for the larger part
of the world’s pain and sorrow.

During that time other offensive voices will be raised
and many will be silenced.
But an outrageous few will recklessly persist
so that the kingdom,
the kingdom grounded in love and truth and sacrifice
will come;
one day,
as promised.

 

© Ken Rookes 2015

Massacres of the innocent

Massacres of the innocent

In his birth stories, gospel writer Matthew
gives us the terrible tale sometimes called
The massacre of the innocents.
It seemed plausible at the time of writing;
this callously brutal act, ordered
by a despotic monarch
for the sake of preserving his kingship.
In more recent years
historians and scholars
have dared to ask the question:
did it really happen?
They point to a shortage of corroborating evidence
beyond the scriptures;
along with the Moses story,
and the need to solve
the Bethlehem – Nazareth conundrum.
Traditionalists, of which there are a few,
point to the character, or lacking,
of Herod the Great, a ruthless tyrant
who would tolerate no limitations
to his pursuit of power.
Without doubt he was capable
of ordering such a terrible deed,
as have been so many kings and rulers since.
In the last hundred years
there has also been no shortage of tyrant:
dictators who have cruelly
oppressed their own people,
tribal leaders who express their hatred
with guns and machetes,
presidents and Prime Ministers
who declare bloody, high-tech war,
on the slimmest of pretexts.
Few have dared
to directly target children,
but these little ones have borne
more than their share of suffering.
Historical considerations aside,
it is good that this Christmas text reminds us
how the small, the innocent, the weak
and the vulnerable, have so often
paid the price demanded
by the wealthy and the strong.
And still do.

© Ken Rookes
More poems for next Sunday can be found here and here

© 2010 Ken Rookes
.

A question of identity

It is a question of identity.
If you are . . .
Is this not . . ?
Who is this . . ?
Who do you say . . ?
So, at the end, when he is paraded
for judgement, before the governor,
the tetrarch, and then the governor once more;
the questions continue.
Who are you, carpenter;
are you a king?
Will you perform for us a sign,
a something that will set our minds at rest;
or speak for us a word that will seize us,
a truth that will change our living?
No answer is given;
only silence.
The words have long been spoken,
scattered alongside the road, in villages,
kitchens and lake shores.
Some were heeded,
some discarded;
there will be no more.
One final message remains to be uttered.
It is not new, but a repetition
of the oft-spoken word
by which the man has shaped his living
and wrought his identity.
It will not be voiced by lips and tongue,
but by his body, suspended
and reaching out.

© Ken Rookes 2013

 

 

For some.

The wealthy and powerful ones;
rulers, kings and major shareholders
do a lively trade in information.
They invest some of their ample resources
in finding out stuff, analysing trends and opinion,
and gathering whatever facts can be assembled
from their multiple sources
in order to gain advantage over everyone else.
Knowledge, they say, is power;
who would argue?
In his terrible nativity story, Matthew
presents us with the despotic Herod,
who, sensing a threat to his kingly power
in the unlikely birth of a child,
demands, of his royal advisors,
insight and opinion. It is his hope
that when the appropriate dots
have been successfully joined,
they will indicate a profitable course of action.
And just when,
he confidingly enquires of the wise strangers,
feigning concern for the success
of their crazy adventure;
did the star first appear?
Having sent the gift-laden travellers to Bethlehem,
in accordance with some long-forgotten oracle,
he awaits their return,
along with the specific details,
(parents, street name and number),
that they will supply.
He must have waited some time;
the successful pilgrims, as the story goes,
were recipients of further information,
and went home by another way.
The ever-pragmatic Herod was unconcerned;
it was a minor inconvenience.
Their answer to his earlier question
had been duly noted by his scribes;
it would be sufficient for his mathematicians
to make the necessary determinations
that would allow his troops to do their job.
The baby’s parents also received advice
that enabled them to choose a path to safety.
Not so blessed were other young children
in Bethlehem. Knowledge, they say, is power;
for some.

© Ken Rookes 2012