Ken Rookes

Painter, poet, printmaker, performer


© All works on this website are protected under copyright laws. Permission for their reproduction should be sought from Ken Rookes, contact details below.



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

Some Poems



They opened a souvenir stand

at the scene of the execution.

An enterprising soldier, having

embraced the government's

gambling-led economic policies,

declares: "Everyone's a winner!"

as he cuts the king's robe

into five-centimetre squares,

mounts them on pieces of parchment,

and, numbering each one,

offers them for sale to the public.


Business is slow, however,

and the soldier is forced

to offer them as a job lot

to some passing merchants.

"They'll be worth a fortune one day,"

he assures them.

The merchants raise their eyes,

but see no king;

only three criminals dying in the sun.

Unconvinced, they pass up

the opportunity.



Blessed are the peacemakers


What shall we call them,

these little ones cutting in cardboard

the shape of doves,

singing songs,

and daubing on white sheets

the colourful slogans of peace?

Ignorant of international complexities,

they dwell in picture-book stories

with simple innocent assurances

that love will prevail over hatred,

and that the righteous will live happily ever.

I blame the parents,

sharing their offspring’s naivety,

with sad smiles.

You’ll have to sing louder than that

if you want to stop the war.

What shall we call them, these little ones,

and those who encourage them?

We, who dwell also in picture-book stories,

know that they shall be called

children of God. 




Late at night we become emboldened

and allow deep-within doubts

to glimpse, as it were,

the light of day.


So the teacher of Israel comes

in darkness to talk with the man

whose words glimmer

like a lake beneath a full moon.


A staccato celebration of questions,

a shimmer of provocations,

gleaming surprises,

and glistening affirmations;


of sparkling water, rushing wind,

and life.





In the world of ever-thrusting images,

of throbbing colour, pulsing light

and fifteen-minute fame

icons come cheap.


There they are: bleached-haired,

lip-synching song crafters,

stripped and shaven sports idols,

tyrants, thieves, animated drawings,

and creatures generated from deep within

the lattice-like mind of the semi-conductor chip.


We are not fussy. The famous, the infamous,

the exceptional and the notorious;

they flicker in boxes, peer down from walls,

grin at us from tee-shirts

and populate the covers of magazines.


With drab butterfly wings, we flit

from one garish luminary to another,

before they merge into each other and fade;

dying flowers, photographs left in the sun.

These icons are short lived.


Still we consume them, and search,

still hungry, for the next icon to devour.

They do not satisfy.


Hanging among others, almost lost, one alone

fills the belly of the soul.

This is no popular hero

to tantalise and enthral fickle hearts.



he disappoints those who seek

a comfortable passage and happy ending,


he angers those who claim the right

to shape lives and to order their world.


This icon steps from the frame to call to himself

the members of his race.

Bloodied and real, he hangs,

confronting with flesh-torn love.

Disturbing love, refusing to be broken by death.

Unfashionable life, abandoning itself

that others may live.


There he is, lifted from the earth;

with his out-of-date message of costly service.

Look up, if you dare.




In the breaking of bread


In the breaking of bread

the Lord is known.

The human-shaped God

takes the hospitality of heaven in his hands

and distributes it to his friends.

“This is for you,” he says

looking into the eyes of the hungry.

“This food is me. Take me deep inside

your eyes, your head, your heart and your belly.

Take me into your dreams and your struggles,

your fears and your waking thoughts.

Take me deep into your cryings

and your rejoicings. Take me as you journey

towards the wonder of love

and the mystery of grace.

Find me deep within your sharings,

your yearnings, your laughings,

and the fullness of your life together.

See me with you in the loneliness of dark night

and when you close your eyes

against the blinding light.

See me; even when I disappear.

This is for you,”

he says.




I shall dig deep the hole

in which I hide my heart.

There it shall lie,

secure, safe,

and unscathed.


On the day that the master returns

I shall retrieve my heart

and present it before him,

intact, entire

and untarnished.



The Bonsai Man


Zacchaeus the bonsai man,

growing stunted and gnarled;

his roots bound and starved

of human respect and affection.


Until the gardener looks up

into the twisted branches

of another tree, sees him,

calls him friend,


uproots him from the cruel pot

of judgement and derision

and offers him a plot

in the field of God's kingdom.


There he can grow as God intends;

with space to send roots deep

into love, to stretch out his limbs,

and to be made fruitful.