Ken Rookes

Painter, poet, printmaker, performer


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

More Poems . . .


The clown


The clown was so sad.

I had intended it to be thus;

a puppet shaped and painted

as a paradox.

It stared at me accusingly,

as if knowing that its role

would be that of the villain.

"Ah!" I said. "It will be all right!

Let me fit your wig;

Then you will feel better."


The orange hair did nothing

to lessen the look of reproach

on the face of my creation.

"Trust me," I pleaded.

"I have written your redemption

into the last act!"

But the clown refused

even to discuss the matter.

With a sigh,

I took up my paintbrush.


He's still not entirely happy,

but at least now

he does what he's told.



I need your body


I need your body

to speak to mine

of things like grace,

forgiveness and love.


But you lie there,



So for most

of the night

I wait, and wish

you would awaken.



Hot and windy


Hot and windy.

Really hot; the like of which

recorded history had previously

remained ignorant.

An apprehensive landscape

waiting fearfully for the ominous spark

that would create a devouring monster;

the dragon with many heads

sitting in triumph astride a parched terrain.

Ordinary women and men,

noting its rapid progress with alarm,

took arms of tank, pump and hose

attempting to defy the onslaught;

whilst communities, nestled

amidst once sweet and welcoming bush,

drank bitter draughts of grief

and tearful disbelief.

These things were never meant to be!

Those who ask difficult questions

shall be excused: Where can God be,

when hell has spilled beyond†

its metaphorical gates to turn

rough eucalyptian beauty

into roaring flame and ash?

Where, indeed;

but perhaps

in the dirty faces and

weary, smoke-filled eyes.





On Wednesday we gathered,

ignoring the heat, to remember

and celebrate a flurry

of fabric and colour. Franne,

outspoken, passionate,

lover of people; one

touched recklessly by the Spirit.

We heard how she harangued

the former PM on the Town Hall steps

in the election that he would eventually lose.

Franne struggled and triumphed

but lost her final battle.

For many years she set aside

her own darkness, to contend

defiantly with the evils of the wider world,

bringing all the powers of her creative mind

to her divine calling.

It must have been a black and cruel place

from which she determined

that there could be no other escape.


Jesus, who cast out demons,

however we understand them;

bring your light into our places of darkness

and flood us with your love;

that we might be passionate healers,

defiant confronters,

and creators of hope.



Iím feeling nervous today.


Iím feeling nervous today.

I know that some people

are going to be displeased, angry,

more so than usual.

Some will even say that I am no disciple,

but a failed leader,

a false teacher.

Iím feeling nervous today.

I could have kept my head down,

stayed silent,

left it to someone else.

Perhaps I am wrong;

then I will have caused much pain,

all for an error. But if I am not wrong

then there is truth to be spoken,

faith to be maintained,

pain to be embraced,

and love that must be given every opportunity

to triumph.

God, have mercy on me,

and upon my waiting sisters and brothers,

and upon those who would deny them

their place in your kingdom.

Iím feeling nervous today.


The Palm Tree


Ragged orb of green,

challenging brown angles

of roof and spire.


It has to come out.

A thousand starlings,

(give or take a few),

have taken residence

and leave signs of occupancy

on the concrete below

where old people walk with

sticks and frames.

She's a real hazard when it rains.



it's not a native.

A foreigner, invited half a century

ago, to instruct the locals.

With the discipline of another

culture, this one grows

neat and round.


Agreement! Plans

are discussed, arrangements

made; the day is set.

But wait!


A reprieve!

The starlings have gone; no doubt

having heard rumours

of their imminent high rise



We cut it down anyway.






Entering the old meat market

looking for crafts,

we found the Quilt Project.

No signs warned us.


We walked between panels

glancing left and right

at the remembrances of men,

mostly young;

words, pictures, momentos

speaking of love and sorrow.


Stories told by families,

friends, lovers, workmates, carers.

Lives sewn together with

a common red thread

of tears, pain and death.


But here, too, is celebration,

colour, joy and surprise;

like walking inside a poem.