A wild new pope

Wool gathering

Extra omnes! Good morning, fresh Princes, good morning indeed ... Salvç!
(O God, come to my aid. O Lord, make haste to help me.)
Papabillies! Do come in gents, please do. Veloce!
Sit down. No, no need for the sella stercoraria these days, hah?
(Flogged it off to Louis XVIII? in the Louvre? that 'old insane fable'.)
Take the banana lounge, there, George. Yes. In the corner.
Now, as cardinal camerlengo I insist: Incommunicado. No more tweets.
No more nuisance priests barbecuing snapshots of the Holy Father (Retired).
No more leaks, smears, off-record quips. Apropos ...
No more hide and seek with La Repubblica and Panorama.
We'll need a straight-shooting heavy-hitting verticale degno.
With a mop and broom, no less. And Cakeworthy qualities:
'Shoes that cut and eyes that burn like cigarettes ... the right allocations,
who's fast and thorough and sharp as a tack.'
Who among us is diamond-minded, long-jacketed,
will tour the facility 'and pick up slack'?
We're chasing a two-thirds supermajority vote, so please look lively.

mos maiorum
Now, confreres, confer: How's your Italiano? Your Latin?
I know you sprechen sie Deutsche. The flocks are sprawling
in Latin America — 42 per cent of 1.2 billion and growing, and
one-sixth of your good Cardinalities, of course — so, reveal,
how's your Español? Beneplácito! Você fala Português?
So, boys, do we understand each other? What's needed?
You know how this must go down, ad hoc descendere.
Pontifs are for heeding and leading, not
creeding or breeding. Shall we hold the line?
Bottom lines remain base, unless you wanna
open the doors and let some Light in.
Presto! Pass out those ballots. Only one ...
Amo il mio fratello ... one per customer ...
There! Now focus, please. What's that?
It's getting hot in here? Yes George.
The temperature's rising; accept it.
Attend me; assess our unspoken need and strictures.

restitantes poenitens
We can't screw this up, frater cardinales; let us duly
control this process as we control ourselves. Our members. Please!
(Where's a vow of paupertatis et oboedientiae, castitatis, silentium
when you need one?) Don't make me come down there, George ...
Between me, you and the Sistine herself, confessionem tempus!
It's good for what ails yer. Exhibes! Who's culpa stains Benedict's
doomsday duo volumina? Don't cross me; one station forward, now.
No-one's looking, 's'all bene ... 'fess up, placere. I'll get the biretta rolling:
Deus meus, ex toto corde poenitet me omnium meorum peccatorum,
eaque detestor, quia peccando, non solum poenas a Te iuste statutas
promeritus sum, sed praesertim quia offendi Te, summum bonum,
ac dignum qui super omnia diligaris ... Arggh, step up, step lively!
Venite spirant profunde ... Nobody? Anybody? This can't fall back on us.
We cannot proffer one with pedes argilla. Are our loafers light?
Pelusia magna! I ask, you'd better tell ... Brega, hmm? Da' un cristo!
Velim caput tuum devellere deinde in confinium gulae cacare!
Judas himself couldn't look guiltier. Profunda desperatio!

pasci i miei agnelli
'Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight,
and give Your Angels and Saints charge over those who sleep.'
Time to call it a night, then? Yes, we'll sleep on it ... please;
my grumpiness, temerity; this late hour ... I've listened; non intelligitur.
How can we not change? Plan? Our celibacy dances hippo-nimble on glass.
Our income pauperises nations. Our teaching on sexuality? Madonna!
We must grow in grace, no? Share love maturely, evenly,
not demean others as we were demeaned ourselves.
We deride loud complaints and media impertinence? !
We hear the swish of cassocks of shame and cruelty? Anche, Sì!
Scusa, no! La scusa. Lust weighs us down, no?
Where's a spare sella stercoraria? I'll fetch it. And
a quantity of rope. And where's my silver hammer?
We have fallen sore. 'Feed my lambs ... Choose from among you
to dole out bread and look after the widows.'
Ah, Kyrie Eleison! This is too hard; leave it to Dio.
We need hard heads and soft hearts. Let us not prey.

Barry Gittins


Habemus Ferus Novi Praesulis
(We have a wild new pope)

Would you be pope if you got elected, dad? asks son two
At the tumultuous dinner table, and while once again old
Boring dad launches into a boring disquisition about how
Those men in dresses actually can elect anyone, we don't
Have to have a cardinal or a bishop or even a priest if you
Read the application form carefully, another part of me is
Thinking o no man those little red slippers are not going to
Work for me, and another deeper part is thinking o no way
I really and truly love the woman who married me and I'd
Miss curling up in bed and laughing and those icy feet you
Just have to accept if you are the lucky guy she said yes to,
But then a surprisingly deep door inside opens, and I think,
Man, yeah, I would be pope, if the phone rang, late at night,
Collect from the Vatican. Yes, I would, if I could do it right.
I'd call a meeting of the Curia and say boys, we are letting
Women run everything for the next five years. Each of you
Gets a new boss in high heels. Also we are selling all castle
Properties in toto. From now on we all live in aged convents.
We'll keep the museum properties. No more cars and planes.
We walk and ride bikes. We are going to do what we say we
Want to do — feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the
Naked. That's about it. Also people get to elect their bishops,
Like in the old days. Also you can only be pope for ten years.
Mandatory term limits is not such a bad idea. Also rapists get
Sent to jail, like in the real world. Also we will have a trustee
Board made up of nuns and mothers of kindergarten children.
Also we will be joining up again with our Protestant brothers,
Like in the old days before Martin Luther was right. Anyone
Have questions? I need you to help me do what we said we're
All about but a lot of the time we weren't. We can either be an
Insurance company hoarding its cash and power, or we can be
A verb of an idea that changes the world. We can try like crazy
Or we can slowly go out of business. You guys with me or not?

Brian Doyle


The Pope app

There's a new app for your iPad
We call it Pick-a-Pope
So many possibilities
You'll find it hard to cope

Black or white or brindle
Tall or short or fat
Crazy, racist, saintly,
Male or (no! not that!).

Put your own face to it
Above the gorgeous robes
Or someone else, Pinocchio's,
Pell's, any homophobe's.

This really is a bargain
$4.99, no joke,
But hurry buy it now before
It goes up in a puff of smoke. 

B. A. Breen

Barry Gittins headshotBarry Gittins is a communication and research consultant for the Salvation Army and a Eureka Street columnist. He has written for Inside History, Crosslight, The Transit Lounge, Changing Attitude Australia and The Rubicon.

Brian Doyle headshotBrian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of the essay collection Grace Notes. 

B. A. Breen headshotB. A. Breen is currently poet-in-residence at the Ballarat Art Gallery. He has published two collections of poetry, three of short stories and, with Lorna Hannan, five anthologies of poetry for schools. He has received an Arts Council Senior Literary Fellowship and various prizes for poetry, short stories, children's stories and acting.  

Topic tags: new australian poems, pope, conclave, vatican



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Existing comments

What a wild brilliant idea! Habemus Feris Novi Praesulis.

Pam | 09 March 2013  

Poetry?? Really??

john frawley | 11 March 2013  

Dear John Frawley, it's all in the syntax, the rhythm, and the delivery. The first poem is a performance poem. It could be called theatre, in keeping with the subject, really. The second relies on an idiosyncratic voice and a deceptively easy mode of argument that works best in the line form adopted by the poet. The third poem seems to be the kind of the thing they used to plaster onto the walls of Rome during the Middle Ages, the sort of satire that the general populace understood instantly, as did, usually, the object of the satire. Poetry, what else?

CLOSE READING | 11 March 2013  

Brilliant thanks for the dream

irena mangone | 11 March 2013  

I am offended by Brian Doyle posit that the new boss will have high heels. I regard females who put comfort before fashion and wear flat heels as being far more sensible than those who wear high heels.

Mike | 12 March 2013  

Gentlemen, you rock!

Joan Seymour | 12 March 2013  

Perhaps Mike would like to write his own poem and paste it on the statue of Pasquino. The Pasquinade could be called ‘Pope Joan II and Her Flat Red Shoes’.

CLOSE READING | 12 March 2013  

I vote for a pope who would: "...call a meeting of the Curia and say boys, we are letting women run everything for the next five years. ... We are going to do what we say we want to do — feed the hungry, house the homeless, clothe the naked. ... Also people get to elect their bishops, like in the old days. Also you can only be pope for ten years." Oh well, we can dream, can't we?

Frank S | 12 March 2013  

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