When You Are Pope
When You Are Pope
When you are pope you cannot be like other men.
You cannot be seen disappearing into limos outside casinos
or polishing off a beer at a corner tavern, old men snorting
at your caftan and cap. You cannot affect a commanding air,
pulling at your cincture and laughing like a man.
You must be humble all day. You must loosen the bootstraps
of the world, even if you are not feeling humble.
Everyone is your boss because everyone knows you
and expects certain behavior. No spitting, no grumpiness,
no annoyance with fools, for if you show signs of being human
they will not let you be pope any more;
you will end up on a bridge selling windup toys or grilled kebabs,
and people will come up to you squinting, saying I know you.
You must always be for life and for peace and never concede
that everybody dies and the world is ripe with people
who could benefit richly from a ferocious beating
and everyone knows it, but you are not allowed to say it.
People go on about this saint and that saint and you
can say nothing though you know all the evidence
in their files, who was too fond of the muscatel,
who slipped and needed help like the rest of us.
It is hard to keep up with friends. They are too fond of you now,
and won't let you be honest any more. There are times
you want to burst out crying and tell them everything,
what a crock the Vatican is, and what assholes the cardinals are
and what you would give just to sit and play cards and sip gin
like you used to years ago. Before people stopped listening.
When you are pope it is sadder than you imagined.
The devout and the suffering look to you
as if you had the answers for their madness, for the cough
that has been getting worse, for the world in arms,
and the torture of the faithful over slow flames,
and you would do anything to take away the pain,
but what can you do, you are only a pope and the faith
that never let you down before is suspect now;
you haven't heard from God in years. He is like some clever zephyr
that blows into town and blows out again, now you see him,
now you don't, and if it gets to be too much you just might hear
where's your faith, you sad son of a bitch, I knew you would disappoint me.
And now the light pours in at Castel Gandolfo, and you awaken late.
Your kidneys ache and you wonder how long
you can carry the cross for the sins of the world.
You think of a girl you knew in school, and wonder
what became of her, if she got old and fat and lost
that look that lifted you up all those years ago,
or if she still is who she was then, a lifetime later.
All this time, she could have been your friend,
and you turn in the bedsheets, feeling the spear in your side,
your blood seeping away like raindrops from your body,
shiny as silver, famous as dust.