Ken Rookes

Painter, poet, printmaker, performer


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Ken Rookes, Willowra School, PMB 102, Via Alice Springs, NT 0872 Australia  

Sometimes you have to answer back to God.



you have to answer back to God.

Many consider it poor form,

say that we have no right

to question the Divine opinion.

We are mere worms, they say;

who are we to presume to know better

than the Omniscient One

whose ways are mysterious?

Better to put the doubts aside

and accept the Almighty’s

strange wisdom. Remember Job

and his unsuccessful contention?


Yes, but I am reckless enough

to doubt, curious enough

to question, and rude enough

to answer back.

There is much in this world

with which I disagree,

and God, they tell me,

is supposed to be in charge.

It seems to me that faith

requires me to keep asking;

a pesky dog yapping at God’s heels:

like the woman in the story

who would not let go until Jesus

changed his mind

and healed a gentile daughter.



One who

loves much


The righteous ones,

offended by her

very presence;

call her sinner,

whore, temptress,



unmarried mother,


dole bludger,



drug user.


by her intimate


Jesus calls her




one who

loves much.

And God smiles.



The puppet.


Molding paper and paste

to shape the head;

the nose shall be pointy,

so, too, the chin.


I shall paint the mouth fierce

and grim.


My other puppets are pleasant,

non-committal; this one

shall startle and disturb,

and cause children to gasp.



Lord, if you had been here


Lord, if you had been here

my brother would not have died.

Is that so, Mary,

is that so?

Is the absence of your Lord

the source of all ills?

Lord, if you had been here

the tsunami would not have swept all away,

the bomb would not have exploded in the crowded cafe,

the ambulance would have arrived in time,

the wind would not have fanned the fire,

the car would not have struck the tree,

the depressed young man would not have taken his life,

the ship would not have spilt its oil,

the war would not have been fought,

the frightened child would not have been abused,

the rains would have come.

Lord, if you had been here.


Coming among the ones who weep,

Jesus weeps with them.

“Come,” says the one who calls himself

Resurrection and Life, no longer absent.

“There is work to be done.”



Ointment of love


The woman looks at her friend,

recently arrived, dusty

from the dry journey

through the pressing parched throng

of those who also yearn.

They would draw from him

every last drop of sympathy;

except that the man seems

to have his own internal reservoir.

He enjoys this brief period of replenishment

among friends, smiling at their welcome

and speaking of his gratitude.

The woman sees with disturbed wonder

his increasing anguish,

knowing that he pours himself out

with generosity

and sensing that he will not stop

until he has been drained

to the point of death.

She, too, has been made captive

to the spirit of generosity that flows

through his teachings and his deeds.

Taking her bottle gift

she moves quickly to his side.

Unconcerned at the cries of ‘squander,’

she pours the ointment of love

over the waiting feet of her Lord;

and weeps.



Jacob’s Wedding


My father called me

Leah With the Lovely Eyes;

as his first daughter

I was always his favourite.

But it was Rachel who had the right curves

When our unexpected cousin turned up

Rachel caught his eye

and my father made the arrangement.

For seven more years I waited for a suitor,

but in vain. I would become the maiden aunt,

the wrinkled apple at the bottom of the basket.

As the time drew close, my father

read the concern in my eyes. It will be all right,

he said, with a wink.

The day before the wedding

he called us both aside and set out his plan.

Rachel ventured to disagree,

but our father would hear no objection.

She held the fury that was written in her eyes;

she would be required to hold her desire

for a further week.

The wine flowed liberally,

the toasts were many,

and the groom was encouraged

to indulge beyond the limits of moderation.

Around midnight the crowd gathered

with drums and torches to dance him,

wide-eyed and unsteady, to his tent.

There his bride, bathed, perfumed

and suitably veiled, was ready.

The lamp was extinguished.



Golden, and bovine shaped.


Where are the gods

who brought us out of Egypt;

where are the reassuring gods

who speak the words we anxiously crave?

Let us build an altar upon which our chosen

and carefully crafted god

can be enthroned in majesty.

And let us dance and sing

in frenzy and abandon

to the gods of gold and comfort;

the gods that promise

that our labour will be rewarded,

our bellies will be filled,

our borders protected,

our security guaranteed,

and that those less worthy will receive

only that to which they are entitled.

Golden, and bovine shaped.

These, these are the gods we adore,

before whom we will make the sacrifice

of our planet and our peace,

our compassion and our conscience;

and the future of our children.

Let us build an altar.